The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.
In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.
(from our Movie Correspondent)
What an abundance of riches! First we had Syria with their blockbuster soap opera, "The Rothschilds"! Now we've got Iran with this wonderful new cartoon for children! I tell you, folks, the movie scene in the Middle East is a-buzzin! And I'm Saudi Arabia's first movie critic, here to tell you all about it.
Just wait till they show this in Riyadh, in the kiddies' cartoon cinema, just after the "South Park" "Super Best Friends" episode! It's a wonderful, touching, gentle cartoon that's right for kiddies of all ages. And who said that the Iranians were a miserable, joyless bunch of weird-beards?
The story starts with Abd Al-Rahman, a young boy, a really Good Boy, spends all his time doing Granny's shopping, helping old men across the road, and rescuing cats from up trees. He lives with his father, an orange farmer (I mean his crop, not his color, stop sniggering there), his mother, and assorted siblings. It's a normal day in Palestine when the Israeli Army comes along and enjoys some small-scale genocide, as they do. They kill one of the children, and knock the father on the ground. Mother wails, as mothers do.
However Father's had enough of this nonsense, so he picks up a stick and tries to attack the soldiers.
(His language is probably a bit fruitier than that. However this is a kiddie movie)
Unfortunately for Father, the officer in charge is the Nasty and Evil Ariel. (Same name as the Israeli Prime Minister. Now there's an amazing coincidence!). You can tell he is Nasty and Evil just by looking at him. He steals his Granny's shopping, pushes old men out into the traffic, and shoots cats out of trees. And just look at that scar. The sort of scar that students in Heidelberg used to get from duelling. But it's so that we recognize him when he turns up again. Anyway, he naturally has no mercy for Father wielding his puny little stick.
The soldiers gleefully pump bullets into Father. Blood on the oranges. Scratch one orange farmer.
Abd Al-Rahman's not too happy about that. He cries. He cries buckets, in fact. This is a cartoon, so if the Director wants rivers of tears, he gets rivers of tears.
Now this is a critical moment in Abd Al-Rahman's life. He could take over running the orange farm, and look after his remaining family until they can fend for themselves. Alternately, he could go for Revenge.
Well, what sells more movie tickets, orange farming or Revenge? Particularly as revenge is so successful in bringing a quick halt to feuds. None of your namby-pamby Christian "turn the other cheek" stuff here. History has proved on numerous occasions that if they kill one of Yours, then all you need to do is kill one (or better still, several) of Theirs. Then They say "Fair enough, we were well out of order when we killed one of Yours, but now you've killed one of Ours, and we see the error of our ways, we were wrong, we won't do it again, no hard feelings, let's do lunch sometime". So, Revenge it is.
And Abd Al-Rahman says you can stick your orange farming, he's off to join Hamas the terrorist (oops, sorry, resistance) group. Just clip the coupon, fill in your name and address, next thing you know, you're signed up, and sitting in a circle round a candle.
The movie is full of snappy one-liners like this!
Abd Al-Rahman may be a Good Boy, but he's not the brightest. A few oranges short of a full crop, in fact. So they persuade him to be a suicide bomber. It will be his contribution to the world's average IQ. And he's definitely up for it. Especially if he can take out Ariel.
So here comes Ariel's convoy. And they've got a box of explosive in the truck. That might be a Bad Idea, especially passing through the gorge, when....
...Abd Al-Rahman comes leaping off the cliff, sailing out of the blue, with a belt-full of grenades, making a heroic but gravity-defying speech (at 22 feet per second per second acceleration, it would in reality be "I...splatt
You can guess the rest. Bang, etc. Scratch Abd Al-Rahman. Scratch Ariel. Scratch everyone.
For the children, that's where the movie ends. (They added a bit on for the more, err, adult sort of cinema. Abd Al-Rahman goes up to Paradise, and discovers that the 72 virgins thing is true. Well, it was true when they wrote about it 1400 years ago. The virginity is obviously a long-distant memory, and the passage of all those centuries has not been kind to our not-so-young ladies. However they are still game if you are, and our hero definitely is. The queue isn't too long, only 140 years to wait. Because he's a suicide bomber, he gets to wait in the "Jihad Club" lounge. 140 years of complementary drinks, tiny sandwiches, and CNN on the TV. Eventually he is called, and is delighted to find that as a "Club Jihad" member, he gets a special bonus. She takes her teeth out.)
Now you may think that by its very nature, there'll never be a sequel. Well, you'll be wrong. Because at the very end, another young boy wanders over to look at the Jihadi corpses. And he's also got diorhoea of the tear duct. So we're set up for movie No 2. This will be a bit more realistic. Hamas in reality don't usually go head-to-head with a squad of soldiers, because soldiers shoot back, which is Not Fair, and is also against the Geneva Convention. So our new hero is going to blow up a bus. There won't be a Nasty and Evil Ariel. But there will be Nasty and Evil old ladies with their shopping bags, and Nasty and Evil young mothers with Nasty and Evil toddlers in pushchairs. It's good to know that virtue will always triumph.
Anyway, for a feel-good movie, that has you leaving the cinema full of optimism for the future of the human race, they don't come any better than this. You've got to hand it to the Iranians, their Imams may be completely mental, and their idea of a good time is funeral where the corpse gets bounced along on everyone's shoulders, but I'm tipping them for an Oscar sometime soon. And I don't know about you, but I can't think of nicer people to have their own nuclear weapons!
(Iranian Animated Film for Children Promotes Suicide Attacks
, from those excellent people at MEMRI