It is well known that military movies are the type of movies that are concerned with dealing with wars and related topics, such as prisoners of war, secret and public military operations, as well as military exercises and the daily life of soldiers or civilians in time of war. The movies may be based on a novel, a true historical story, or a biography of a military figure, and the movie may be a military documentary.
Among the most important goals of military movies is to strengthen the patriotic spirit, patriotism, affiliation, social solidarity and the development of social capital, especially for new generations who are exposed on a daily basis to other types of drama that may have negative effects on them.
Preserving and strengthening national identity requires many means, including the production of military movies to enhance social capital, which has become of paramount importance in an era in which identities and cultures are targeted in an unprecedented way, and the consequent negative effects on the social fabric and national culture of many Arab societies.
These movies, through their ability to shape the conscience of individuals, contribute to the formation and promotion of social capital and its corporate values and enhance its positive role in society. Among the most important of these values: the ability to work collectively, the values of trust between individuals, and between them and between different institutions, governmental and non-governmental, and trust between the individual and the state, the values of cooperation and solidarity, the values that promote a sense of social responsibility, and the values that uphold the cohesion of the social fabric and enhance the moral values and standards that push the members of society towards solidarity and cooperation, and reinforce the values of loyalty and belonging, which are the essence of national identity.
The world between past & present
The movie “The Birth of a Nation” by David Griffiths, produced in 1915, is considered the first military movie in the history of world cinema. Then, those movies increased after the First World War, and most of them were mainly aimed at propaganda for the American army and the demonization of the hostile armies. Many of these movies have become landmarks in American national life, such as George Cohan’s movie “There”, which continues to sing his lead song “Hold Your Gun” to soldiers in the United States until now on several occasions.
And when the United States of America needed to enact laws requiring every young American to enter military service during the World War, movies such as “Recruit Buck”, “In the Navy” and “Keep Flying” were produced to justify this idea.
After the end of the Second World War, the cinema of military movies began to develop, and it began by presenting issues of heroism, sacrifice and serving the country in addition to adventure, courage and heroism, such as “The Best Years of Our Lives” 1946, “The Commander’s Decision” 1948, “Battlefield” 1949 and “Land of the Braves” 1949 and “Navaron’s Weapons” 1961. Over time, Hollywood cinema reached a degree of progress and high craftsmanship, starting with movies such as “The Thin Red Thread” and passing through movies such as “Rambo” and “Saving Private Ryan” directed by Steven Spielberg to movies such as “American Sniper”.
On the Chinese side, the military movie “Zhan Lang 2” broke all records of success, which was produced in 2017, to coincide with the celebration of the year of the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Red Army, and tells the adventures of a former member of the Chinese special forces in a war zone in Africa.
Since Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999, Russian cinema has been seeking, on the one hand, to restore the prestige of its army, and on the other hand, to confront the declining sense of patriotism of young people and their desire to participate in mass events. To this end, in April 2019, Russia launched the Pobeda (Victory) channel, which targets young people and broadcasts movies throughout the day praising the heroism of the army through showing movies, such as “Tanks for Stalin”. On the French side, military cinema has not stopped flourishing since World War II, and the army contributes to making military movies and even writing scripts for some of those movies, but the most important thing it offers is the shooting locations and the military equipment needed for production, as the French say: “No tank will look like a real tank.”
On the Arab level, many military movies were produced in Egypt, especially after the glorious October War, such as The Bullet is Still in My Pocket (1974), Sons of Silence (1974), Great Loyalty (1974), Badour (1974), Life is a Moment (1978), Execution of a Deadman (1985), Tales of the Stranger (1992), The Road to Eilat (1993), The Day of Dignity (2004), these movies have evolved and reached a high degree of quality with newly produced movies such as The Cousins (2009) and The Passageway (2019).
“Al Kameen” movie: the message and the indications of timing
In this context, we can say that the Emirati military cinema was born giant by producing the movie Al Kameen at a cost of 128.5 million dirhams, and its duration is 109 minutes. It is a joint production between “Image Nation Abu Dhabi” and “AGC International.” “Al Kameen (The Ambush)” is the largest Arabic-language movie production in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, and all its scenes were in the Emirates, specifically in Ras Al Khaimah, in a remote mountainous location, simulating the location of the event in Yemen. Work on it took about two years, as filming began in February 2020.
More than 400 moviemakers and crew participated in the movie, led by the famous director Pierre Morel, director of the movies “Town” and “District B13”, and producer “Derek Dauchi”, producer of the movie “Frank”.
Stein, producer Jennifer Roth, producer of the movie “Black Swan”, along with the Emirati soldiers with whom the movie’s story took place on the ground, such as Colonel Muhammad Al Mazrouei, commander of the mission to rid the soldiers of Al Kameen, and the heroes of UAE promising actors who were assigned the main roles in the movie, among them: Marwan Abdullah Saleh, Khalifa Al-Jassem, Muhammad Ahmed, and Muhaira Abdulaziz.
The events of the movie revolve around real events that occurred in the winter of 2018 for some Emirati forces that were tasked with providing humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people, to which false information was received that landed them in an ambush inside a mountain valley, under the siege of the Houthi rebels. This led to the death of a soldier and the injury of others. The movie reviews in detail the epic that tells how the officers of the Emirati forces moved to get their colleagues out of Al Kameen in a dangerous mission of its kind, risking their lives to be able to save their colleagues.
On the one hand, the movie succeeded in conveying the heroism of the soldiers in a brilliant way that required suspense and excitement from the beginning to the end, and on the other hand, in raising the feeling of the people of the Emirates with pride in their heroes who put their lives on the line for the sake of their homeland and in order to establish its noble values, through scenes full of these values, including Brotherhood, national unity, sacrifice, and sacrifice for the sake of the homeland. Thus, the movie will immortalize that epic in the memory of the two emirates through generations.
The movie was also able to present the strength and professionalism of the UAE army, its possession of the latest advanced weapons, and the valor of its armed forces in Yemen, and within the Decisive Storm, which, as stated by the diplomatic advisor to the President of the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, deserves a lot of literature and cinematic and dramatic works to tell their heroic stories and sacrifices.
It is noteworthy that the movie “Ambush” came out in late November and early December, at a time between Martyr’s Day and the fiftieth Union Day, which represents an important sign of the symbolism of the movie’s release at that time. Which makes us say that Al Kameen movie embodied sociological theories in promoting national belonging, such as Brown’s ” Map of the arts benefits “, McCarthy’s “social revitalization” theory and Azevedo’s “Public repercussions or resonance”, by promoting social capital that plays a key role in building collective action and strengthening and consolidating the foundations of harmony within society.
Al Kameen movie hashtag #, the social networking site “Twitter”, has achieved more than “15 million” views around the world on the day of its premiere. Through the hashtag, tweeters expressed their pride in their soldiers who sacrificed their lives in order to defend their convictions and defend the lofty values they learned in Emirati society, such as brotherhood, courage, sacrifice and patriotism.
Many of the tweeters expressed how Al Kameen movie affected them, and one of them said: “Al Kameen is an impressive and wonderful Emirati movie that immortalizes the memory of our martyrs in Yemen war… I was very affected by this work… This type of work that writes the sacrifices of our soldiers deserves to be immortalized.”
Finally, in his book “The Political Formation of the Arabs and the Significance of the Qatari State,” Muhammad Jaber Al-Ansari says that the State that did not fight is an incomplete State, and we can say here that the State that fought and its cinemas did not record the heroism of its soldiers is a cinema that was not yet born. We can say that Al Kameen movie chronicled the birth of the giant Emirati military cinema, after its production of the movie “Khorfakkan 1507”, which was adapted from the historical book “Khorfakkan Resistance to the Portuguese Invasion – September 1507” by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, which was presented in November 2020, and presented the epic of the Emirati people’s resistance to the Portuguese invasion, which was seeking to control the shores of the city of Khorfakkan in the sixteenth century AD.
The UAE, which did not witness the production of a local movie except in 1988, which is the movie “Passerby” directed by Ali Al-Abdoul, has been able over the past years to make confident steps in terms of the number of movies produced, their contents and their artistic level, because of its belief that cinema, especially the military one, is a cultural industry, systematic and effective, and its effects are evident in shaping the intellectual, psychological, emotional, temperamental, religious and value dimensions of a large segment of individuals.
Prof. Dr. Wael Saleh (Senior researcher and head of knowledge trends follow-up unit at TRENDS Research and Advisory)