“The lion of the desert” by Mustafa Akkad

This article is also available in: Italiano

The Lion of the Desert is the film that most of all highlights the abominations operated by colonialism in Africa, with an eye to fascism, probably the most bleak and abject invention that humanity has been able to elaborate.

The lion of the desert

Mussolini appointed sixth Governor of Libya, successor to Pietro Badoglio, General Rodolfo Graziani, confident that a soldier of this credit would have been able to crush the rebellion and restore the peace and security of the Italian colonists, mostly from the poor regions of Southern Italy , from Veneto and Emilia. Following a precise strategy dictated by Badoglio, Graziani deported populations of semi-nomadic shepherds, destroyed their livestock and, to prevent supplies from Egypt, built a 270 km barbed wire fence along the border, constantly manned by Italian troops. It organizes concentration camps where malnutrition, hardships, epidemics reign and stifles rebellion in the blood.


The idea was to weaken the opposition of the Libyan rebels by involving the entire population that provided assistance in the repression, given that the military option alone had proved insufficient. To inspire and guide the resistance of the guerrillas is Omar al-Mukhtar: teacher by profession and guerrilla by duty, the latter has devoted himself to a fight that he will not be able to see won in the course of his life.

The lion and the hyena

The Lion of the Desert is so strong that at least in 3 different points I was afraid of not being able to finish it, too agitated by the anger and disgust that the cowardly fascist actions inspired my soul. This work shows all the squalor of this political group, unfortunately master of Italy for the most embarrassing 20 years of the entire history of the peninsula. Rape, torture, concentration camps, gas and decimations, our compatriots did not miss anything in Libya, raising their abominable belief and sinking the honor of the Bel Paese more than ever.

General Graziani with Omar al Mukhtar

That hyena Graziani, in particular, is shown in all its littleness and in its vain attempt to feel great and honorable towards those who, on the other hand, really deserved these attributes. Shabby as, in the last scene, he thinks he will receive any recognition from Omar al-Mukhtar who, once again will demonstrate his superiority in front of these black-coat animals. The legendary Libyan leader, in fact, will at times seem almost angelic, bringing respect and humanity to enemies far worse than the most abject beasts (moreover also completely incapable, since they took more than 20 years to block a revolt completely without means); like the Nazis but before them and in a much more peasant way.

Much worse than the French

Far be it from me to express even a minimal positive opinion on the German work, however both Fascism and Nazism are children of the same sow and a comparison comes naturally. Hitler‘s soldiers, in fact, were known for their cold discipline and cynicism, but here only racist and ignorant peasants are observed, more like sheep thieves with money than an army “with a mission” (however insane , mean and abominable).

Battle Algiers
Colonel Philippe Mathieu

Even making a comparison with “The Battle of Algiers“, the comparison can only go against the Italians, since there General Mathieu still seems to respect the rebels; here Graziani shows himself in all his cowardice, feeling no sentiment except indiscriminate hatred and always trying only at the last to make up for offers with the limit of ridicule.

We are not just this suck

Akkad, however, will also show us “normal” Italians, the only hope in a world that seems to show itself only and exclusively through violence and barbarism. Honorable mention, in particular, for a sergeant who preferred to die rather than betray such a loyal enemy and for Raf Vallone, who in the film plays Colonel Diodice, who will lead the far-reaching negotiations with al Mukhtar.

Raf Vallone in “Bitter Rice”

The honorable mention, in this case, is due both to the role played in the film, and to the personal life of the actor who during the Second World War became partisan; I’m sure he also wanted and especially for this to act in this film. The film is one of the most beautiful and strong on Italian colonialism, so much so that it was censored in Italy until 2009, a more unique than rare case and which gives a precise idea of its narrative power. Unmissable for everyone, especially for the proud fascists, the film can only bring shame.

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