CAIRO -- When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited this city last month, Egyptians had an unusual choice: watch her on TV as she expounded on issues of war and peace in the Middle East, or go to a neighborhood movie theater and see her portrayed by a look-alike actress belly-dancing and placed in "adult" situations.
The film in question is "The Night Baghdad Fell," which depicts Egyptian obsessions with war, sex and the United States. Wildly anti-American, it has done a brisk business for two months, a long screen life for Egyptian-made films. In "Night," Egyptians fret about an American invasion of Egypt and the potential destruction of their capital. Americans are bullies, rapists and mindless killers.
By the way, "The Night Baghdad Fell" is a comedy.
The film is only the latest bit of Egyptian pop culture to display deep unease about Americans. Beginning two years ago, Yanks emerged as bad guys on Cairo stages. In one play, "Messing With the Mind," the audience was ordered around by wild-eyed ushers dressed as Marines. In another, a Statue of Liberty was blown up in the lobby.
Ugly Americans began to emerge on-screen last year. In "Alexandria, New York," director Yusef Chahine rebuked U.S. attitudes toward Arabs. "No Problem, We're Getting Screwed," a black comedy, told the tale of an Egyptian who sends his son to Iraq to deliver mangoes and then must travel there to get him out of an American jail. Along the way, the father tumbles into the hole where Saddam Hussein was hiding, gets caught in insurgent crossfire, is arrested by the Americans and is taken to President Bush. Bush forces him to wear a beard and confess to bombing the American Embassy. Somehow, the Egyptian escapes, outwits his captors, sells his mangoes and gets his son back home.
Hollywood is still doing its part, with actress Susan Sarandon set to play anti-war mom Cindy Sheehan in a biopic movie.