The Middle East and North Africa are regions of the world where armed conflicts have continued for the past 20 years. The human tragedies associated with the US war on terror, the rise of Islamic extremism and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were all reflected in mass culture. Moreover, the bloody recent history of the region – the Arab-Israeli wars, the tragedy of Palestine and other conflicts – have prepared the ground for such reflection. We have collected movies that, in the opinion of the editorial office, provide a wide range of views on the Middle East wars: from action movies to black comedies, animation and philosophical thrillers.
“Damascus Time” – Iran, 2018
An unexpected look at the war in Syria
The Iranian film of 2018 tells the story of an Iranian pilot and his son and co-pilot. Their plane was captured by ISIS forces in Syria as they were delivering humanitarian aid to people in the war zone. The footage includes extensive panoramic filming, beheadings and torture, desert landing and bloody battles. The film undoubtedly ignites hatred for the terrorists. There are no Hollywood special effects, but the film potrays a piercing truth about the war.
Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Special Unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who was killed in a U.S. strike , called the film a masterpiece, noting the high accuracy with which the orders among the ISIS terrorists are depicted. The impression is somewhat spoiled by mediocre computer graphics, but in general, the authors have managed to convey the atmosphere of the Syrian war in the summer of 2015.
Watch the full movie:
“The Valley of the Wolves” – Turkey, ongoing since 2003
A Turkish superhero fights the US and Israel
The Media-franchise “Valley of the Wolves” (Kurtlar Vadisi) has acquired cult status over the last 17 years. The series and several feature films are united around the personality of Polat Alemdar, a Turkish superhero and secret service agent. He challenges the Mafia, the Deep State, the US and Israel and always wins.
Polat Alemdar could be called the symbol of identity of modern Turkey – strong, independent, actively opposing globalism and highly appreciating its own honor and dignity. For Turkish TV and television, the project was a real breakthrough in the genre of patriotic militant action movies.
A foreign viewer can start by watching “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq 2006”, where Polat Alemdar goes to Northern Iraq to avenge the United States for the deaths of Turkish soldiers. “Valley of the Wolves: Palestine 2011” continues the line of irreconcilable resistance of Muslims against imperialists, this time the Zionists.
“American Sniper” – The US, 2014
In the eyes of the occupier
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, over the past 17 years, Hollywood has made more than a thousand feature and documentary films about the actions of NATO forces in the Middle East. However, even against the background of the prominent movie by Catherine Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), which collected six statuettes “Oscar”, the war drama of Clint Eastwood stands out.
Every Eastwood movie is a tightly produced drama, and “American Sniper” is no exception, especially given that it is based on the real autobiographical book of Chris Kyle – the most effective sniper in U.S. history, who fought in Iraq.
Kyle killed hundreds of people in Iraq… the film, however, is predominantly a work of political agitation. The American invader has no capacity for reflection on his actions, he’s just “doing his job”, letting the nonsense of the reason the war is happening and its consequences fall into the background.
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” – The US, 2016
Against all the odds
Another movie from Hollywood by the most Hollywood of all Hollywood directors: Michael Bay.
This time it’s not Iraq, but Libya. However, the film is also based on real events – the jihadist attack on the American embassy in Benghazi on September 11, 2011 where the US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens was killed.
The movie focuses on American mercenaries from Global Response Staff (GRS), which provides the embassy with an evacuation service. The film caused a wave of discontent in Libya, where it was thought to have distorted the real picture of events. The movie, however, raises questions that an outraged American public had been asking the Obama administration regarding leadership mistakes and lack of support.
One thing that is overlooked is how in 2010, Libya was a relatively peaceful country, and in 2012 it became a bulwark of terrorism… and who was it that spearheaded overthrowing Gaddafi’s government creating this mess?
“Shugaley” – Russia, 2020
The destiny of Russians scientists in Libya
The action movie “Shugaley” is another film about the conflict in Libya, but from the point of view of the Russians. It is based on the real history of Russian sociologists Maxim Shugaley and Samer Sweifan who were captured in Libya in May 2019. The RADA group, controlled by the UN and Turkey’s recognized Government of National Accord, is still holding them to this day in Mitiga prison.
The uniqueness of the film is that it is not about the events of even the recent past, but the present. At the same time, this film is in the genre of “alternative reality”, as it portrays possibilities for the near future associated with the release of sociologists. “Shugaley” is an ideologically based film which perfectly explains Russia’s motivations in Libya and glorifies General Khalifa Haftar as an anti-terrorist fighter.
At the same time, if we look past the propaganda, it’s a not half bad cheerful action movie in the spirit of the 80s and 90s with all the components of the genre: cool heroes, Kalashnikovs, intense fights and charismatic villains. One of them, by the way, was played by a star of Tunisian television, Khaled Houissa.
“The Mountain – Mountain-2 “ – Turkey, 2012-2016
The Battle Brotherhood
The Mountain 2 (Dağ II) is a 2016 Turkish film. It is a sequel to The Mountain – 2012, which tells the story of two soldiers who went to war with the PKK, and were able to overcome personal differences and find brotherhood and fortitude in times of danger.
In The Mountain 2, these soldiers, Oğuz and Bekir, are fighting with the Turkish special forces. They oppose ISIS and save the locals (Yasidi and Turks). Not everyone will returns home alive.
“Waltz with Bashir”- Israel, 2008
The full-length animated film addresses the horrors and experiences of soldiers who have witnessed the shock of the Lebanese war, betrayal and bloody massacre in the Sabra and the Shatila camps. The protagonist is a participant in the Israeli intervention in Lebanon in 1982, trying to overcome the defense mechanisms of memory. However, he gradually remembers what he and his colleagues did in a foreign country. The film is based on the real memories of director Ari Follman, a 19-year-old IDF infantry soldier in 1982.
Until 2009, no cartoon in the category “Best Foreign Language Film” was nominated for an Oscar, “Waltz with Bashir” was the first. It did not win an Oscar, but in the same year, 2009, the film won the Golden Globe in the category “Best Foreign Language Film”.
“Divine Intervention” – Palestine, 2002.
The surrealism of the occupation
Palestinian director Elia Suleiman is not compared with Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton for nothing. One of the most famous Arab filmmakers, Suleiman uses grotesque hyperboles to convey his truth – the truth of a man whose homeland has been denied the right to exist.
Divine Intervention is a surrealistic grotesque black comedy about a day in life in occupied Palestine.
The film received international recognition – the Jury Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and many other awards, but it was not nominated for “Oscar” because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided that “Palestine is not a state”.
“Abu Leila”- Algeria-France, 2019
Blood and desert
A hallucinatory film about the civil war in Algeria(1991-2002). In 1994, at the height of the conflict between the Algerian army and the Islamists, two policemen, S. and Lotfi, set out to the desert in search of the dangerous terrorist Abu Leila, but very quickly we realize that this journey is not only to the desert, but also to a world of nightmares and traumatic memories of the protagonists. Blood, philosophy and songs from drone metal band Asva ensue.
The debut of Amin Sidi-Boumédiène, a young Algerian director, the film received positive reviews from critics. “Through this first film, I wanted to talk about terrorism in Algeria in the 1990s. Instead of going for a social, political tale, I chose to avoid temporal markers in order to better express myself from a philosophical and human point of view, in a more universal way”, – he explained his intentions.
“Good Kill” – USA, 2014
War from home
A look at the war of an operator of an MQ-9 Reaper drone armed with missiles that he occasionally fires at live targets. His drone kills happen in countries where the US is officially not at war, such as Yemen and Somalia, and the operator does not have to leave US territory.
It’s all very similar to a computer game, only real people die. Violence breeds violence: attacks cause drone strikes, and drone strikes cause new attacks.
A US Air Force pilot transplanted from plane to drone control is trapped in this vicious circle. He is forced to follow orders whose legitimacy raises questions. The main protagonist is ordered to strike civilian targets, killing women and children, justifying it with the war on terror. The pilot is looking for answers in alcohol. His family is falling apart. At one point, a CIA officer orders him to destroy a group of civilians. Eventually, he’ll accomplish a “Good Kill”, but who’ll become his last victim?