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Thomas Kopylov
Thomas Kopylov

The Lion Of The Desert

Released in May 1981, the film has received positive reviews from critics, but performed poorly at the box office, gaining revenues of US$1.5 million worldwide despite having a $35 million budget.[2][3] The film was banned in Italy in 1982 and was only shown on pay TV in 2009.

The Lion of the Desert

Earlier this year (2009), the Italian government concluded negotiationswith Libya, a result of which will be cheap petroleum products for Italianconsumers (the African nation already provides about 25% of Italy's carbonfuels) in exchange for five billion euros in aid. Most of this money willbe spent on construction projects in Libya --particularly a modern highwaysystem designed by Italian engineers and built by Italian companies-- overthe course of two decades. Italy, of course, is the more generous partnerin this bilateral enterprise, for reasons that far eclipse humanitarianinterest and inexpensive petrol.

Thousands of Italian troops, mostly from southern regions such as Sicily, were conscripted to die in the Libyan desert over the course of a war that "So shamed were Italians by the inhumanity and incompetence of theLibyan occupation that the best-known film about the debacle was banned in Italy for twenty-eight years followingits release in 1981." would last some twenty years. In the process, the Italians effectively decimatedLibya's civilian population. By the time the Allies liberated the nationin 1943 as a prelude to the invasion of Sicily, kicking out Italian troopsonce and for all, there were fewer Libyans than there had been in 1912,despite general population trends reflecting an increase in neighbouringnations. That's because the Italians massacred the Libyans in a processof genocide rivalled (in modern Italian history) only by the Ethiopian occupation--and led by the same infamous general, Rodolfo Graziani (1882-1955), convictedof war crimes following the SecondWorld War.

Colonisation was attempted, and from 1920 a Sanusi emir was allowed torule the small desert enclave of Kufra (described by Idrisi) for a time. Graziani's forces all but destroyed Kufra in 1931. But the Sanusi brotherhood,as a Muslim religious and social reform group, strongly opposed Italianrule in any form. Indeed, during the Second World War, many of the Sanusi fought the Italians alongsidethe British in Egypt.

Later, they negotiated (obviously in "bad faith") with Mukhtar'srepresentatives even as they sent more troops to quash the rebellion. Evenbefore the advent of Fascism (1922), summary executions (usually hangings ) withoutformal trials were the norm, and under Graziani's administration (beginning in 1929) vast concentration camps for civilians were introduced. Mukhtar's trial was itself ridiculous by anyacceptable judicial standard. The Italians eventually managed to suppressthe "rebels" by exterminating as much as one-fifth of the totalLibyan population or possibly as many as 150,000 civilians --a little like burningan entire town to kill one stray dog. Precise census data are lacking butthere were probably some 900,000 Libyans in Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, Fezzanand other Libyan territories circa 1912, and possibly 100,000 fewer by 1944.The victims died through starvation or sickness in the camps, or in thehinterland through the same kind of military reprisals that today's Italiansare quick to note were perpetrated upon them in Italy by the Germans fromlate 1943 to early 1945. This was not the only Italian innovation later adopted by the Germans; in Libya Graziani was the first military commander to use tanks against an enemy in the desert.

Released in 1981, "Omar Mukhtar, Lion of the Desert,"directed by Moustapha Akkad, was a joint Libyan-Italian production and reputedlyone of the costliest films made until that time, eclipsing Star Warsand Superman in that regard. The total budget is said to have beenaround thirty-five million dollars. Because it was underwritten by the Libyangovernment, which had poor diplomatic relations with the United States andother nations, it was not reviewed for Academy Award consideration, andit was shown theatrically only in a limited release, mostly in Europe andthe Middle East. It was not a profitable production, nor was it ever meantto be. The filmis strikingly accurate, right down to the details of Italian weaponry, protocoland military decorations, and the actors' performances are solid, as is the musical score by Maurice Jarre, best-known for composing the Academy award-winning music of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.

In retrospect, one is struck by the Arabs' quiet dignity, even in defeat.At Benghazi on 30 August 2008, Prime Minister Berlusconi apologised to theson of Omar Mukhtar and the Libyan people. "It is my duty to expressto you, in the name of the Italian people, our regret and apologies forthe deep wounds that we have caused you," said the Italian premier.Yet this new agreement does not reflect reparations, which were formallyremitted a decade ago to the tune of 200 million euros. At the March 2009observances for the new treaty's ratification, the Italian prime ministerstated: "The past that with this treaty we wish to put behind us isa past that we, children of the children, are guilty of and for which webeg your forgiveness."

Field studies by Dr. Flip Stander have shown that the lions of the Namib, which live mostly at the northern edge of the desert, can survive in extreme conditions, feeding on gemsbok, ostriches, and seals captured along the Skeleton Coast. They breed rapidly and quickly spread into new, suitable, habitats.

The oldest desert on Earth provokes, tantalizes and entrances with each life form that endures. Each creature a sentinel paying penance in an otherworldly landscape unmatched on the continent. We were in Namibia among some of the rarest lions on Earth, lions that have had to contend with poachers, angry farmers and climate change. They are distinctly leaner than savannah lions, have smaller prides and larger home ranges and do not commit infanticide. Our guide Boas is a Himba and key ranger of the Rhino Trust that is in charge of saving the last free black rhinos in Africa. The famed desert lions somehow endure in near unbearable conditions. A little over a generation ago there were maybe 20 or so lions in the region. Today their number is close to 120 and every year they hold on precariously on the edge of an almost waterless world. It is a miracle.

The lions had clearly outsmarted us, as lions often do, until we found their tracks going straight for the mountains overlooking the valley where we had camped. We took out our binoculars and found four small figures, three females and one male marching straight up the hillside towards the top of the mesa. A male which has become much rarer than females because of the price trophy hunters have put on males and their manes. The sight of these formidable four slowly marching up the side of a mountain until they were profiled against the sky made for a remarkable moment, as if the lions were ascending, willing themselves to a higher plain, above the storm of the human species below. It was a rare moment for us to see lions from several hundred yards away, lions who were not lured, seduced or tamed by the barrage and convoys of tourists who often overwhelm lions. A very rare almost mythic population, still abide in deep desert valleys that abide by a different time.

Located approximately 400 feet south of Route 66, between the town of Amboy, Cal and Kelbaker Road, two Chinese Guardian Lions sit in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Waiting for something. Or someone. One male, one female, they stand about six-feet-tall and appear to be made of solid white marble. Does a lion roar in the desert when no one is there? I don't know the answer to that question and many other things, but I do know that these lions are pretty cool. There's a sign-in book at one of the lions, in case you want to leave your mark. I chose not to. Take only pictures, leave only footprints....

Five desert lions look out over the Namibian landscape. Three desert lions, who were featured in a National Geographic film earlier this year, died in August after eating a donkey carcass laced with poison.

The Folgore paratroopers rushed to counterattack, using all the weapons at your disposal. It was a desperate struggle of men against men and tanks. Crews of the British Tank Corps did not believe their eyes: soldiers launched themselves against their armor! On the same night, the 5th battalion (led by Lieutenant-Colonel Giuseppe Izzo) was attacked by units of the French Foreign Legion: once again the courage and cunning of just 100 Italian paratroopers prevented the collapse of the entire front. 041b061a72


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