Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Lion of the Desert

1981 by Moustapha Akkad

Libyans are fighting Italian colonialists for about 20 years. Mussolini, in 1929, appoints General Graziani as the Governor of Libya, in a last attempt to crush the 20 years long war. Libyans are all behind Omar Mukhtar, a 73 year old teacher and geurrilla, who has committed himself to this dream project of liberating Libya, almost sure it cannot be won in his time. Finally Mukhtar is captured, not before Graziani had to bring in most of Libya under a guarded concentration camp and having a barbed wire along the Libya- Egypt border, and hanged.

One of the best movies on guerrilla war and resistence. The movie, as it claims, is built on real life incidents and characters. It even shows some black and white shots of the original scenario in between which only adds to the authenticity of the movie. And at the end it also shows the BW photographs of the real Omar Mukhtar in chains.
I was really impressed by Mukhtar. Any 73 year old fighting for his birth land, with primitive guns, riding horses that too on the desert, is above most heroes. Brilliant.

Movie well brings out the patriotic factors and also the savagery of Colonialism. At the same time, there are also couple of Italian characters who are depicted as those valuing humanity and respecting Mukhtar. There are also some Libyans who supports the Colonialists.

It is a gripping movie on resistance and looks so authentic that it could be so close to a documentary. The war scenes were really authentic, not looked choreographed at all. Anthony Quinn steals the show as Mukhtar. What an amazing actor he is.

This movie was a huge box office disaster, may be because it was funded by Libyan autocract, Gaddafi. But then, when have the west and the powerful nations, including my own India, ever accepted any criticism with dignity.

Nearly, a century later, these kind of occupations still happens in the world is such a pity. I am sure news media, then was more independent and non corporatist. 100 years after, if stories of present occupations and freedom fights are scripted, how much truth would be available for those attempts?