Packed Iraqi audiences in Baghdad cheer ‘American Sniper’; gives us ‘strength to face ISIS’

It’s no secret that Clint Eastwood’s film, “American Sniper,” depicting the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, is an American box office success. What’s not common knowledge is that the film’s popularity has carried over to audiences in Iraq.

Gaith Mohammed, a twenty-something man with an accounting degree, described the packed audiences attending the film’s opening week at Baghdad’s Mansour Mall as rowdy and engaged.

Although the film is set during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, Iraqi audiences found themselves identifying with Kyle.

american-sniper“When the sniper was hesitating to shoot [the child holding the RPG in the film’s opening scene], everyone was yelling, ‘Just shoot him!’” Mohammed told the Global Post.

“Some people watching were just concentrating, but others were screaming, ‘F-ck, shoot him! He has an IED, don’t wait for permission!’”

According to the Global Post:

Mansour Mall attracts a largely upscale crowd in Baghdad. Behind tall gates and multiple layers of security complete with metal detectors and X-ray belts, the theaters here show a mix of Western and Arab films. Moviegoers interviewed at the mall say big budget action movies are usually the most popular, but romantic comedies and family dramas also do well.

Mohammed lived through the events portrayed in the film, and although he enjoyed the movie overall, he admits that scenes where women and children were killed were tough to watch.

“I love watching war movies because especially now they give me the strength to face ISIS,” he said.

When asked if he thought the movie was racist or anti-Arab, Mohammed 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.”

Although “American Sniper” was a rousing success during its run at Mansour Mall, the theater pulled it after only a week, “because the hero of this film boasts of killing more than 160 Muslims,” a theater employee told Global Post.

This decision didn’t sit well with all moviegoers, including university student Omar Jalal, who’d already seen it once.

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Jalal told the Post he was looking forward to seeing it again on the big screen — this time with his family. Instead, they’ll just have to watch it at home, he said, displaying a pirated DVD in a thin plastic sleeve.

Jalal seconded Mohammed’s assessment that the movie was neither racist nor anti-Arab. On the contrary, he found the Kyle character, portrayed by Bradley Cooper, to be appealing. Although Kyle was an American who’d killed Iraqis during his country’s occupation, he was nonetheless heroic.

“He was a hero and he went through difficult training,” Jalal explained, saying Kyle was merely serving his country.

Tales of heroism has enjoyed a universal appeal, from the time of Homer to the present. They give us all hope and fill us with courage. “American Sniper” is but the latest example.

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