Egyptian director Amr Salama is going ahead with plans to produce Iraqi Sniper, a film that looks at the American Sniper story from the Iraqi point-of-view. Salama's current film Sheikh Jackson, a drama about a cleric who suffers a crisis of faith when he learns about the death of Michael Jackson, is headed to next month's Toronto International Film Festival.
Clint Eastwood's 2014 film American Sniper told the story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), who became a hero for racking up an astonishing number of kills while serving in Iraq, but struggled to re-adjust to real life after returning home to his family. Eastwood's film grossed an amazing $350 million domestically and went on to be nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture, but received criticism for being blatantly pro-war, and for failing to depict the Iraqi point-of-view. The movie includes a character named Mustafa, a mysterious sniper on the Iraqi side played by Egyptian actor Sammy Sheik, who terrorizes American soldiers before ultimately being killed by Kyle.
Director Amr Salama says he is now producing his answer to Clint Eastwood's flag-waving American Sniper, which is going under the working title Iraqi Sniper, with Sammy Sheik himself attached. Salama spoke about the anger that inspired him to develop his own film with the Iraqi sniper at the center (via THR):
“He’s the hero in my film. I hated it. That was my inspiration — I hated it so much that I wanted to work on a different version of that story. But I’m trying to make an anti-war film. Whereas American Sniper was pro-war.”
The central character of Iraqi Sniper is based on a real-life man named Juba who became an almost mythic figure thanks to videos of his kills, with rumors circulating that he was formerly an Olympic athlete. The film is currently in the script stage with Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy and Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad (The Mountain Between Us) producing.
In Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, Mustafa merely provides an adversary for Chris Kyle to heroically out-duel, but there was a point in the film's early development when Steven Spielberg was still involved where Mustafa was fleshed-out as a character and came to provide more of a legitimate counter-point to Kyle. Spielberg eventually dropped out however, and the version of the film made by Eastwood reduced Mustafa's role. It was this reduction of Mustafa to mere antagonist that so enraged Amr Salama and inspired him to re-visit the character in hopes of showing him not as a mere foil in a story of American heroism but as a hero in his own right.
It will be interesting to see how Salama's version of the story treats the character of Chris Kyle, if he chooses to include a version of the American Sniper at all. Producer Mohamed Hefzy says he believes Iraqi Sniper will have "international appeal," as did American Sniper.