DIRECTOR: MUSTAPHA KAKKAH. RUNNING TIME: 94 mins. DVD: ARAB STRAP. PRICE £15.99 CERT 18
A sequel to last year’s Delta Fatwah (a blockbuster tale of Arab special forces commandos defending the Islamic world from the evil West by slaughtering thousands of innocent citizens), Delta Fatwah 2: Pilgrims of Hate was likewise a smash hit in the Arabic-speaking world upon its initial release, and is now finally available on DVD with English subtitles. The movie gets off to a brisk start with several apparently Arabic passengers casting off their traditional robes and pulling off false beards to reveal that they are actually a group of redneck US terrorists intent on seizing control of the Iranian Air Lines jumbo jet they are travelling on. It quickly becomes apparent that they are planning to crash the airliner – carrying pilgrims back to the Us from Mecca – into Washington’s largest mosque in revenge for the Twin Towers. However, little do they know that amongst the passengers is Abdul Queefa (played by Farouk al Drek – the Iranian Chuck Norris), one of the surviving commandos from the first movie.
Interestingly, despite its origins, the film closely follows the conventions of the airline disaster genre, with the passengers being the usual mix of clichés – the traditional folk-singing Mullah in danger of losing his faith, the child needing a heart transplant, the politically ambitious Ayatollah, etc. – whilst the action follows the usual pattern of lone hero taking on and defeating the hijackers, but ultimately having to take the controls of the plane after the crew are killed. Nonetheless, there are some novel twists. At least one villain is dispatched through the power of prayer – struck by a thunderbolt after the Mullah regains his faith and prays on the Koran. Another falls victim to a novice suicide bomber who had been planning to attack targets in the US but decides instead to sacrifice herself by blowing up the toilets whilst pretending to initiate a hijacker into the ‘Mile High Club’. The final, highly ingenious, twist comes when Queefa takes the controls of the aircraft as they approach the US capital – it is revealed that the reason he is able to fly a civil airliner is because he was trained as one of the reserve pilots for the September 11 suicide missions! Will he safely land the plane or ill he succumb to his training and crash the airliner into the White House?
This is one of a number of movies which give the lie to the idea that all Arab made films are art house pieces about the travails of peasant farm workers who have unwittingly bought a lame donkey from their local Mullah. Indeed, prior to the Delta Fatwah movies Farouk al Drek had appeared in a number of popular comedies, most famously Ramadan-a-Ding-Dong!, in which he travels to the North Pole and converts Santa Claus to Islam. The hilarious scenes of uncomprehending Western children opening their Christmas stockings to find copies of the Koran instead of Gameboys and Buzz Lightyear toys helped make this one of Iran’s top-grossing films ever. Al Drek also reprises his Delta Fatwah role in a cameo appearance in the summer’s smash-hit Iraqi teen comedy Bomb Them, They’re American!, in which a US exchange student causes chaos at Baghdad High School. After his hilarious high jinks and pranks leave his classmates aghast (most infamously, the American succeeds in getting the head of his host family – a respected local Mullah – drunk, shaving the hapless cleric’s beard off and dressing him in women’s clothes as he lies incapacitated. The Mullah is consequently stoned to death by shocked neighbours), the US teen finds himself imprisoned and tortured. Released after the UN threatens carpet bombing of Baghdad, he finally thinks he can relax as his airliner approaches New York – the camera then cuts to the cockpit to reveal al Drek at the controls, laughing and winking to camera as he steers the plane toward the Empire State Building!