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Egyptian film battles IS with comedy

Egyptians are turning out in droves to see a new Egyptian movie satirizing the Islamic State, which aims to target the terrorist group and extremism from a different perspective.

A new Egyptian film is combating the Islamic State's ideas and dogma with comedy. The movie “El-Armoty in the Line of Fire” tells the story of a group of young Egyptians who are captured by IS. The hero of the film tries to save his friends in a series of humorous events. The film, starring comedy actor Ahmed Adam, was written by Mohammad Nabawi and Alaa Zenhom and directed by Ahmed al-Badri. It was released Jan. 25 in Egyptian theaters and made 2 million Egyptian pounds ($106,383) within a week.

Adam said in a Jan. 23 interview with CNN Arabic, “The movie is an attempt to document what the Arab world is currently going through and tries to make new generations understand the meaning of a scheme and the true meaning of Islam. Islam for those who speak in its name is merely a tool to serve their interests. These are mercenaries who received treatment in Israel only to go back and fight in Syria. Israel has been hitting Syria and we remain silent. Before, we used to talk about Arab unity. Now we pray for God to unite us within one country.”

In an interview on Dream TV's "10 p.m." show Jan. 26, Adam said that he has been receiving threats from IS over Facebook, prompting him to hire a bodyguard.

In another interview with the Egyptian al-Bawaba News on Jan. 20, Adam said, “The movie carries many messages in a humorous context in order to be easily relayed to the different communities and people of all ages. It also reassures Egyptians not to worry about IS. The Egyptian people do not fear these groups, as the city of Port Said was able to face three major countries on its own during the Tripartite Aggression against Egypt and was ultimately victorious. Egyptians will definitely not fear a bunch of armed factions.”

He added, “The movie also stresses an important message that terrorism does not stem from an ideology or a thought. It is created to serve interests and lead to financial profits. [Many] IS members are non-Arabs, as the film shows. Terrorism is a bloody yet profitable business for some. We noticed that most of the mercenaries are foreigners and non-Arabs.”

Adam criticized the American movie industry for not producing movies on IS, saying that making films about IS and other extremist groups helps reduce fears of such groups, which have committed gruesome massacres that bring to mind the atrocities of the Middle Ages.

Screenwriter Nabawi said in a press statement Jan. 22, “The film’s premise is one that interests the entire world. Young people are being brainwashed by terrorist groups and we are sounding the alarm on this issue. Many young people have fallen prey to the terrorist scheme. People who watch the movie will see how we addressed this issue in a humorous context.”

Film critic Tarek el-Shennawy told Al-Monitor, “The movie is a satirical caricature of IS and its main objective is to expose terrorism that is using religion as a cover. Most scenes take place in Libya, where there are numerous parties that claim to be defending religion, and establishing an Islamic state.”

Shennawy added, “The state has got to produce movies about IS and its extremism but in an artistic, deep way, targeting the notions of extremisms among young people. Cinema is the easiest way to access minds but most importantly, the artistic work should be good enough to deal on a more serious level with extremist dogmas promoted by extremist organization such as IS, which adopts methods that are even more barbaric than the ones adopted by al-Qaeda.”

Shennawy expects the global film industry to become interested in producing movies about IS in the near future, noting, “It is an artistic material targeting a worldwide phenomenon that the entire world is concerned about.”

Art critic Majida Maurice told Al-Monitor, “'El-Armoty in the Line of Fire' is a satirical movie about IS. Satire attracts audience more than realism does, especially when the subject is a critical issue such as the extremist ideology of a barbaric group like IS. The audience sometimes avoids serious pieces about this group because it is hard to accept reality, so people escape it and lean toward satirical work.”

She added, “IS and its barbaric actions concern Egyptians in light of the incidents that occurred in Egypt … for which IS claimed responsibility. Terrorism is the biggest issue facing Egypt.”

Maurice also called on the Culture Ministry and the film industry to give more attention to producing artistic works that address extremism and terrorism and expose the reality of extremist organizations from within.

Although Egypt is one of several countries suffering from IS attacks, such as the December bombing of the St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Cairo, the Egyptian film industry has never before explicitly addressed IS and its operations in Egypt.

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