06 June 2017

MOVIES, Part Two

Since Part One about foreign-made films, I snagged a DVD of Queen of the Desert on Amazon. Nicole Kidman does a creditable job but the script ignores a lot of what Gertrude Bell accomplished ‒ her cartography, her archaeological finds, her founding of the great museum in Baghdad (where she died) ‒ and seems to end with her initial posting in Cairo. Absolutely spectacular cinematography, though.

Hollywood (and other first-world film studios) has also produced its share of movies that involve camels or deserts or Middle East settings. Leaving aside classic biblical epics, herewith a few that I have seen (the country in parentheses is the story's setting):

A Hologram for the King (Saudi Arabia) 2016
Overexposure of Tom Hanks as American salesman falling for forbidden Saudi beauty; waste of time and credibility.

The Hurt Locker (Iraq) 2008
Hyper new guy in the army's bomb disposal unit disrupts their routine, putting them all at risk. Oscar winner.

The Kingdom (Saudi Arabia) 2007 
Americans investigate terrorist bombing of their Riyadh compound; muddled politics; echoes of Nelson DeMille's novel Panther that was set in Yemen.

Syriana (an oil country) 2005
Iran or an Emirate-like setting; complicated petropolitics and story lines; George Clooney is prominent.

Sahara (W. Africa) 2005
Clive Cussler action; search for hidden treasure in desert sand; Matthew McConaughey. Several previous films of the same name (with Bogart in 1943).

Black Hawk Down (Somalia) 2001
Many awards for the film based on the American raid on Mogadishu.

Three Kings (Iraq) 1999
Soldiers after the first Gulf War hunt for Kuwaiti gold supposedly hidden in the desert; they discover their humanitarian consciences. George Clooney stars.

The Man Who Would Be King (India) 1975
Beloved movie of Kipling's tale of two British soldiers who take over fictional Kafiristan; sneaking it in here because what's not to love with Connery and Caine chewing exotic scenery?

Jesus Christ Superstar (Israel) 1973
Andrew Lloyd-Webber's rock opera in a mesmerizing take on Holy Week.

Lawrence of Arabia (Jordan) 1962 
Who hasn't seen this classic? O'Toole sweeps to victory (and cinematic history) in the 1917 Arab Revolt as the Ottoman Empire declines.

A few I've missed:

The Little Prince (Sahara) 2015
Animated version of the delightful Saint-Exupéry story; previously made in 1974 with Gene Wilder as the fox. 

The Men Who Stare at Goats (Kuwait/Iraq) 2009
Reporter George Clooney pursues strange story of a sci-fi army on a mission to establish world peace. A real box office bomb?

Cairo Time (Egypt) 2009
A gentle, brief romance between an American woman and an Egyptian man.

Sand and Sorrow (Darfur) 2007
Documentary narrated by activist George Clooney; the humanitarian crisis in Darfur which was largely being ignored by the rest of the world.

The Sheltering Sky (Sahara) 1990
Has to be in here somewhere because Bertolucci-directed classic, but the aimless characters appear to be bleak, bleak, bleak.

The only remaining question is:
How many desert movies can George Clooney be in?!

© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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