The desert lion

The Lion of the Desert ( Arabic title أسد الصحراء , English Lion of the Desert ) is an American – Libyan film of Moustapha Akkad released in 1981 .


In 1929 , Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini charged General Rodolfo Graziani with solving the problem, in Libya , of the armed resistance of the Bedouins , opposed to the colonization of their country by Italy , whose spiritual leader is Omar Al Mokhtar . The objective of Graziani is the repression and especially, the capture of Mokhtar, but this one leads a fierce guerrilla …

Technical sheet

  • Alternative title: Omar Mukhtar
  • Scenario: HAL Craig , based on historical events
  • Photography: Jack Hildyard
  • Music (and musical direction): Maurice Jarre
  • Sets: Syd Cain and Mario Garbuglia
  • Artistic direction: Bob Bell , Giorgio Desideri and Maurice Cain
  • Costumes: Piero Cicoletti , Hassan Ben Dardaf and Annalisa Nasalli-Rocca
  • Editing: John Shirley
  • Production: Moustapha Akkad, for Falcon International Productions
  • Genre : Drama / Historical Movie
  • Format: Colors – 35 mm – 2,35: 1 – Mono
  • Duration: 163 minutes
  • Release date: United States : April 17, 1981


  • Anthony Quinn (VF: Henry Djanik ) : Omar Al Mokhtar
  • Oliver Reed (VF: René Arrieu ) : General Rodolfo Graziani
  • Irene Papas (VF: Paule Emanuele ) : Mabrouka
  • Raf Vallone (VF: Serge Sauvion ) : Colonel Diodiece
  • Rod Steiger (VF: William Sabatier ) : Benito Mussolini
  • John Gielgud (VF: Louis Arbessier ) : Sharif El Gariani
  • Andrew Keir (VF: Georges Atlas ) : Salem
  • Gastone Moschin (VF: Henri Poirier ) : Major Tomelli
  • Stefano Patrizi (VF: Éric Legrand ) : Lieutenant Sandrini
  • Adolfo Lastretti (VF: Jacques Thébault ) : Colonel Sarsini
  • Sky Dumont (VF: Bernard Tiphaine ) : Prince Amedeo ( Duke of Aosta )
  • Emmanuel Takis (VF: Michel Barbey ) : Bu-Matari
  • Rodolfo Bigotti (VF: Edgar Givry ) : Ismail
  • Robert Brown (VF: Albert Medina ) : Al Fadeel
  • Ihad Werfali (VF: Jackie Berger ) : Ali
  • Eleonora Stathopoulou : Ali’s mother
  • Luciano Bartoli (VF: Maurice Sarfati ) : Captain Lontano
  • Claudio Gora (VF: Jean-Jacques Steen ) : the president of the tribunal
  • Giordano Falzoni : a judge
  • Franco Fantasia : Graziani’s aide-de-camp
  • George Sweeney (VF: Jacques Chevalier ) : Captain Biagi
  • Mario Feliciani (VF: Jean Michaud ) : Lobitto

Censorship in Italy

The Italian authorities banned the film in 1982 because according to the words of Minister Giulio Andreotti , this film would be “detrimental to the honor of the army”. The last act of the government’s intervention against the film dates back to 1987 . Subsequently, the deputies proletarian democracy asked parliament to show the film in the Chamber of Deputies .

The film was finally broadcast on television by Sky Italia , the, during the official visit to Italy of Muammar Gaddafi 1 .


Film historian Stuart Galbraith IV writes on the film: “A fascinating look inside a deeply significant facet of Arabic culture still virtually unknown outside of North Africa and the Arab world . The Lion Desert has a Spartacus style, David vs. Goliath, a tale that deserves more respect than it has so far.It is not a great movie, but in the end, it becomes compelling. ”

The British historian Alex von Tunzelmann writes: “Omar Mukhtar has been adopted as a figurehead by many Libyan political movements, including both Gaddafi himself and the rebels who are currently fighting him. The Lion of the Desert is a half an hour too long, but its representation of Italian colonialism and Libyan resistance is globally accurate. ”

The film critic Vincent Canby writes: “Spectacular … almost an endless series of great battle scenes”.

Clint Morris comments on the film as: “A great epic adventure that will present itself as a culminating point in Moustapha Akkad’s producing career”.

British historian Denis Mack Smith wrote in the magazine New Cinema: “Never in a film, the horror, but also the nobility of the guerrillas were expressed so memorable in battle scenes so impressive, never the injustice of colonialism denounced so vigorously Those who judge this film with a criterion of historical reliability can only admire the breadth of research that has overseen the reconstitution. ”

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