American Sniper pulled from Baghdad's only cinema for 'insulting Iraqis'

The Iraqi minister of culture has called for the cinema to stop showing the film

Clint Eastwood’s controversial film American Sniper may have broken box office records in the US, but it has not been received well by Iraqi audiences.

Due to objections from the minister of culture and a slew of rowdy screenings, the film – which follows the story of real-life Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle - has been pulled from Baghdad’s only cinema for “dehumanising Iraqis”. 

“He told me the film insults Iraqis,” said cinemas manager Fares Hilal who withdrew the film to avoid fines and possible closure. “If we show it, we will be criticized. But if we don’t, we lose money.”

The six-screen cinema, which opened last year at Mansour Mall, is the first to offer Iraqis an American movie-going experience. Sarmad Moazzem, a security adviser at the cinema, was outraged by the US film’s inaccuracies and insensitive portrayal of Iraqi culture.

“The film makes out that all Iraqis are terrorists — men, women and children.” Moazzem told The Washington Post. “Actually, there are some people who loved the Americans and wanted them to stay to help rebuild our country. The movie didn’t show any of them.”

 

One particular scene, which shows a child picking up a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher, caused an outburst during a screening in Bagdad. Three spectators rose from their seats and began cursing.

“They were shouting, ‘It’s all a lie,’ and ‘You are demeaning our culture,’” Mohammed Laith said. The audience members refused to remain seated and were removed from the cinema.

Similar criticisms have plagued American Sniper’s release in the US, but have not deterred the film from surpassing the $250 million mark over Super Bowl weekend.

Bradley Cooper’s gripping performance has been praised by critics, but the film has also been deplored for showing a reductive and one-sided portrayal of the Iraqi conflict.

Despite the critical backlash, the military biopic continues to perform well at the box office and has garnered six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and another for Cooper for Best Actor.

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