Sunday, February 1, 2015

American Sniper is Popular (and Controversial) in Iraq

This story reported by the Global Post, has been picked up by a number of conservative and anti-Islam sites and blogs. One post heading read, "Unlike many handwringing leftists in America, Iraqi audiences are loving the film, 'American Sniper'...saying it gives (them) 'strength to face ISIS'." With respect to my betters, I think the original story is a bit more nuanced. But it leaves no doubt that (as in the United States) the film has been a box office hit. Excerpts below:
When Gaith Mohammed, a young man in his twenties with a degree in accounting, went to see "American Sniper" during its opening week at Baghdad’s Mansour Mall, he says the theater was full and rowdy. 
“Some people watching were just concentrating, but others were screaming ‘F*ck, shoot him! He has an IED, don’t wait for permission!!’” Mohammed laughed, recounting the film’s many tense scenes when US Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, radios in for authorization to take out a potential threat in his crosshairs. 
In the United States, while the film has been breaking box-office records, it has proved controversial among critics.
…It’s been stirring controversy in Iraq, too. 
In Baghdad, where much of the film is set, the movie drew full crowds at one of the city’s new upscale cinemas. Dressed in a fur-collared coat and loafers, Mohammed says many of the showings were sold out, and he knows of people who had to book their tickets a day in advance during opening week. 
But after just a week on screens, the Mansour Mall theater pulled the controversial war movie. A theater employee sitting at the box office says management made the decision “because the hero of this film boasts of killing more than 160 Muslims.”  The employee declined to give his name because he did not have permission to speak to journalists… 
…Mohammed, who lived through the events in Baghdad the film depicts, admits that scenes where women and children were killed were hard for him to watch. But all in all he liked the movie. 
“I love watching war movies because especially now they give me the strength to face ISIS,” he said, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State. When asked if he thought the movie was racist or anti-Arab — a charge made by some critics in the West — he replied, “No, why? The sniper was killing terrorists, the only thing that bothered me was when he said he didn’t know anything about the Quran!” 
But not all Iraqis were cheering on "Chief" Kyle’s kills. Wael, a government ministry employee in his thirties, says the film was too violent. He’s happy it’s no longer being shown in some Baghdad theaters. 
“To some extent, I considered it against all Muslims,” he said. He also referred to the opening scene in Fallujah where a woman and child are killed. 
“The sniper, he has a chance to hit the child and his mother in their foot or anywhere without killing them, but he didn’t because he’s bloodthirsty like all the American troops.” 
Wael, who asked to only be referred to by his first name because he fears for his security, says he still watched the movie three times: twice at the cinema and again at his friend’s house… 
Iraqi filmmaker Mohamed Al-Daradji stated:
“There is no American films [about Iraq] — and I saw a lot of them — that have given justice to the Iraqi people and the events that happened in Iraq,” he said. “I sort of understand why not, because when an American filmmaker and an American company make a film they think about it from the American point of view, they don’t care about Iraq, they care about themselves.” 
“That’s why we Iraqi filmmakers have to make films about Iraqi people,” he added… 
At the Mansour Mall foodcourt outside the theater, Omar Jalal, a university student, says he’s upset "American Sniper" is no longer being shown. 
Even though he saw it on the big screen already, Jalal says he was hoping to bring his family back to see the movie again. Instead, they’ll just watch it at home, he says, holding up a pirated DVD in a thin plastic sleeve that he bought from a shop a few doors down. Most of his other friends have already downloaded it illegally. 
Jalal says the movie doesn’t strike him as racist or anti-Arab. He says he finds the main character appealing regardless of the fact that he’s an American soldier killing Iraqis during the US-led occupation of his home country. 
“He was a hero and he went through difficult training,” Jalal explained, saying Chris Kyle was just serving his country, a universal duty for all men. “Besides,” he shrugged, “it’s just a movie, and I like war movies. If they are true or not, whatever!” 
This story was reported by Susannah George in Beirut and a journalist in Baghdad.
Full disclosure: I haven't seen American Sniper. Actually, if you really want to know, I see many films on DVD or streaming every week--The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, Pippi Longstockings, etc.--but we haven't been to a movie theatre for almost four years, primarily because we have four children three-years old or younger. Plus, the last film I saw--Cowboys and Aliens--left deep psychological scars. However, I know a bit about Chris Kyle and the story in general. I approve of him and the film (as far as I know) in every way. And anyone who punched out Jesse Ventura is a true American hero in my book.

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