Equally critical of American imperialism and Egyptian torpor, “The Night Baghdad Fell” is a political farce which treads an uneasy balancing act between humor and fear. Honing in on Arab concerns with Yank hegemony in the Mideast, scripter-director Mohamed Amin speculates a possible U.S. invasion of Cairo and plays thick and fast with several hilarious ideas that turn chillingly real. Sure to sweep Arab markets once it passes the censors, pic should also attract scattered fest play, especially in Europe.
Thick-jowled comedian Hassan Hosni stars as Shaker, a school headmaster who has nightmares of the U.S. Marines invading his home after seeing images of troops invading Baghdad. Convinced that Egypt is in line for an American takeover, Shaker takes matters into his own hands when he realizes his government has no protection plan.
Shaker tracks down a former student, Tarek (Ahmed Eid), who was a science whiz in school but is now wasting his talents in a haze of hashish at the “Hookah Research Center.” Convinced Tarek is Egypt’s last hope, Shaker mortgages some properties to fix him up with a lab.
But Tarek’s mind is fried from weed and he’s having masturbatory fantasies involving Condoleeza Rice. Shaker agrees to supply him with smokes so he can concentrate, and offers to marry him off to his daughter, Salma (Basma).
As U.S. rhetoric grows more bellicose, the two men become impotent. But after Salma dons a U.S. Marine’s uniform, new hubby Tarek performs just fine. In a twist worthy of “Lysistrata,” soon all the neighborhood women are hanging U.S. uniforms on their clotheslines.
In his previous “A Cultural Movie” (also with Eid), Amin played with the kind of sophomoric sex humor that transcends national borders. The problem in “The Night Baghdad Fell” is that these gags — often rollickingly good — become wedded to reckless propaganda.
Pic begins sliding into more uncomfortable areas when Shaker and family see a newspaper headline claiming Iraqi women are being gang raped by American soldiers. (In reality, the story and pictures were discredited.) In response, Shaker forms a private militia.
There’s no doubt Amin captures a mood in the Middle East that’s been fostered by the Bush administration. But there’s something irresponsible in using a discredited news story — as if the truth about Abu Ghraib isn’t bad enough — as an advocacy for personal militias. Egypt, however, is equally skewered by Amin’s script: Pic abounds in one-liners criticizing the self-serving interests of the Egyptian government.
Actors throw themselves into their parts with gusto. Despite a common tendency to over-light scenes, tech credits are consistently good.