The productive life of the Hollywood Arab-American filmmaker, Mustafa Al Akkad, was cut short in the terrorist attack in Jordan. Mr. Akkad, known for both popular horror films and movies that brought the story of Islam to Western audiences, had hoped to begin a movie about the Islamic civilization in Andalusia, in what is now Spain.
VOA's Mohamed Elshinnawi interviewed him a few weeks ago and has this report.
Internationally known Arab-American filmmaker Mustafa Al Akkad died of wounds sustained in the bombing in Amman. He was planning to produce a new movie about the Islamic renaissance in Spain.
"There was a time where all the kings in Europe sent their kids to Cordoba to study science, chemistry, algebra, medicine and astronomy,” he told us. “We were something; we gave the world something. I would like to go into that period to let people know that Islam is not the Taleban or these terrorists."
Al Akkad was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria but came to the U.S. 50 years ago to fulfill his dream of studying movie directing:
"The greatest achievement is being a film director in Hollywood. To me it was a dream. It was a joke when I was in Aleppo. I wanted to go and study film directing, and it was a joke because if you want to study directing you then go to Egypt or to France but I insisted [to be] in Hollywood."
He graduated from the University of California, majoring in theatrical arts. His first major movie was "The Message" in 1976. It was the first Hollywood movie to introduce the story of Islam to the entire world.
"What I did in the film: I have the scene of Abyssinia where the Muslims migrated to and where the Christian King and that debate about the Christ and Mary and the Qur'anic view of Islam about Jesus and so on. I thought that was a good vehicle for promoting it. We used it in the publicity so everybody wants to see what Islam thought about the Christ and Mary," he said.
Mr. Akkad was a fan of director Alfred Hitchcock, and in 1978 he produced a low-budget horror movie entitled "Halloween," which was an instant success in the U.S. It became a series of movies, the latest of which was released last month.
A more serious film, “Lion of the Desert,” was released in 1981 starring Anthony Quinn. The movie depicted the armed revolt led by Omar al-Mukhtar against Italian occupation of Libya.
"The video/DVD, the sales of the “Lion of the Desert” and “The Message,” we can't keep up with it. They are so much in demand, they like to see them at home."
The U.S. Army bought 100,000 copies of each of these two movies before going to Iraq.
Mr. Akkad fused Arab and American cultures into his life and enjoyed each to its fullest:
"The food, the language, the music, the setting, it is like I am living absolutely in an Arab house, but when I go out, I close the door and I am 100% American in the mentality of work and of responsibility"
The irony of his death is that Mustafa Al Akkad devoted much of his life to defending Islam, yet he was killed by terrorists who claim they are doing the same thing.