A Benghazi Resident’s Take on Michael Bay’s “13 Hours” Movie

Benghazi just can’t catch a break. As if an all-out war isn’t enough, the city is being vilified nation-wide by those who see the war as a misdirected endeavor, and the people of Benghazi are being accused of, yes, destroying their own city! I won’t point out the insensitivity and blatant ignorance of this stance. If you’ve been reading this blog over the years, you’ll be familiar with the slippery slope that led our city to the circumstances it’s in today. The war is horrific and it’s hurting us, but it was also an inevitability brought about by the same people currently pretending like there were other options.

One of the very first incidents that sparked the descent down this slope was the killing of American ambassador Chris Stevens. This event launched the start of Benghazi’s international vilification, as pundits and citizens alike decried the Libyan revolution and the international intervention that bolstered it. “We shouldn’t have gotten involved at all!” they screech, oblivious to the fact that if NATO hadn’t intervened on March 19, 2011, there would be a pile of cold ash where I’m currently sitting. Vacuous terms like BenghaziGate and Benghazi Truther were coined by people who most likely could not point out Benghazi on a map. Possibly most comical of all, my city’s name has become almost permanently linked in the media with Hilary Clinton, a politician who hadn’t even seen Benghazi.

So you can imagine my ire one afternoon when I received a message from a friend with a Youtube link and the message, “watch this and start tweeting.” The link was for the trailer of the new “13 Hours” movie, based on the book by the same name. I had heard rumblings about this movie before, knew that it was being filmed in Malta, but other than that I dismissed it as just another attempt to cash in on the Libyan revolution. There have been myriad books and movies made dramatizing and/or analyzing the events of 2011 onwards, mostly from  Western journalists who seemed to have left their professionalism at the airport when they walked into this country. But this movie takes unprofessional and irresponsible Western arrogance one step further.

Pictured: Above, the actual city of Benghazi.  Below, NOT Benghazi.

Pictured: Above, the actual city of Benghazi.
Below, Malta, I guess? Basically some place that ISN’T Benghazi.

Right off the bat, the film starts off so very wrong. You get an overhead shot of a seaside Middle Eastern town. How can you tell it’s Middle Eastern? Why, there’s a dome and minaret! And all them Middle East places look alike, don’t they? It’s not like Benghazi has it’s own unique and rather gorgeous architectural composition accrued from various eras in its history. Nope, just show people a dome and tell ’em it’s Benghazi, same thing.

The opening shots are followed by a scene of Americans being stopped by armed men, who accost them in the standard “Hollywood Arab” accent. This scene sets the tone of the rest of the trailer, an explosion-laden standoff between “the good guys” (our valiant Americans) and the evil Benghazians who like to eat Westerners with their breakfast sfinz. It’s basically a sausage-fest filled with heavy artillery, fire and well-groomed beards. So, yeah, a typical Michael Bay flick.

Benghazi Boy Scouts, marching during a culture parade in the city. Not pictured: Flip flops

Benghazi Boy Scouts, marching during a culture parade in the city. Not pictured: Flip flops

Interspersed through the movie are clips of disheveled children wearing grimy flip flips, standard scenes for any movie on this region. If you don’t have domes and dirty kids in flip-flops, your audience may not recognize where the movie is taking place.

I think what primarily bothers me about the movie is that the people of Benghazi are either the gun-wielding terrorists or confused onlookers. What about the Libyan guards that lost their lives defending the compound? What about the regular citizens who arrived on the scene and tried to help the Americans? What about the medics who tried to resuscitate them? What about the protests the next day decrying the heinous and barbaric attack? Benghazi is well-known for its hospitality and kindness to guests, especially those from abroad. The terrorist attack that night was a shock to the entire city, it wasn’t just another day-in-the-life-of-an-Arab-city.

Scary Benghazi residents wielding frightening weapons. Cuz there's only one type, right Mickey?

Scary Benghazi residents wielding frightening weapons. Cuz there’s only one type, right Mikey?

What the movie will also probably ignore is the repercussions that the incident had on Benghazi. International organizations and offices all packed up and left, leaving the government with no real reason to resolve the security problem. On the contrary, they continued to indirectly support Ansar Shariah and the other militia groups, leaving Benghazi’s residents at the hands of unstable murderers. Our name was smeared in international media, becoming synonymous with conspiracies and chaos. Instead of being helped, we were shunned and ignored, left to combat terrorism on our own. This is a fight we’re still fighting to this day.

I know people will tell me not to jump to any conclusions til the movie is released, that it is, after all, just a movie. But many others have already pointed out that the release of this movie will coincide with Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign launch. So it seems that this entire movie boils down to the spoiled bickering of Americans as they grapple for power, using the murder of a good man to gain political leverage over one another. Not unlike Libyan politicians, then. Between all this, a beautiful city, my city, is reduced to so much hyperbole in a debate that lost relevance long ago.

Benghazi is not anyone’s conspiracy theory, and it sure as hell isn’t just a single unfortunate incident that defines a city with a rich history. Benghazi is Euesperides, a prosperous Greek city founded centuries ago. Benghazi is Berenice, a city named after princesses and queens. Benghazi is ‘the mother of the orphans’, lovingly named so by the orphans that make up this eclectic, strong, resilient city. Part of me is almost glad that the depiction of Benghazi in this movie is so hilariously inaccurate, because then people won’t associate the real Benghazi with it.

And who knows, maybe in the future, it an ironic twist, the term ‘Michael Bay’ will be adopted into colloquial Benghazi speech to refer to a colossal, factually incorrect screw up.

15 thoughts on “A Benghazi Resident’s Take on Michael Bay’s “13 Hours” Movie

  1. Man ive no idea why the majority are shocked by a typically bullshit Michael lame oops i mean bay movie? As if you didn’t see this coming from miles away. Loving this blog though, just found out about it. Keep it up, fellas.

    • Dude, I’m sorry about what happened to your country. but there is no point in pointing it out anymore.
      the west has brazenly destroyed country after country, mine included and each time they pull a few of these movies, they don’t even hide it anymore. it’s not a Michael bay film, whoever is behind it we’ll probably never know. He’s just an obedient lap dog selling soft propaganda, so that someone’s kids might be taken in by it. I personally loved the “how willing are you to die for your country, cause I can do it right now” while he is in someone else’s home line. It perfectly sums up the frame of mind of these people over there in the good ol’ USA, they believe they are superior, but in actuality are plain fascists.
      I hope your people unite one day and turn Libya into the great nation it was, and I also hope that when that happens all the traitors that would sell it out to america because it can stand on it’s own and is independent, are gone or just plain dead.

  2. That was a very fine read, and an unfortunate one as well. Never having really been out of state, I am lacking in a world perspective, so to speak. Most Americans problem, right? Go figure. With that said, over the past few years I see a lot of movies as propaganda in some form or another, which bugs me to no end. I want to enjoy them, but I know it’s just some new attempt to reconfigure facts & shed favorable light on the “right” people.

    I’ll visit your country one day, hopefully to find it just as you describe & when I return, I’ll lend a hand in portraying it properly.

    Top notch stuff, man.

  3. This is a typical american way of showing their failures on the screen as if they were the unacheivable act of heroism to keep themselves in a never ending dream of superiority.

  4. I can tell you this and I know I am correct 100%… if anyone who is not from Libya and has visited Benghazi and got to know it’s people/ also goes for the good faithful friends who are friends of the Benghazi people and never visited, they will be against this movie… you see, Benghazi is a city once you visited it, you can never forget it because the people of it’s city are warm hearted and welcome any guest to it… they open their doors to any visitor… treat them like a family member and believe me, this is something ONLY found in Benghazi and nowhere else in Libya or anywhere in the World… I hope this video gets stopped in some way… I have a message for those who yet haven’t visited Benghazi… come and visit it after this so called war stops and judge for yourselves and then give your opinion on us Benghazi people

  5. I wouldn’t worry too much about how an American action film portrays your City – most non Americans know that Hollywood never concerns itself so much with the truth. I have lived and worked for a short time in Benghazi, and I loved exploring this fascinating and historic City. The country of Libya is going through incredibly hard times, and I sincerely hope that a brighter future exists for it’s people, as they don’t deserve to live their lives this way. When I was there, I met and spent time with several Libyans and found them to be sincere people who simply wanted to live their lives in peace. Keep posting your thought provoking articles, and I hope to be able to re-visit your enchanting City one day before too long.

  6. Reblogged this on drumandtrumpet and commented:
    When the movie hit the screen, my gut feeling that it was basically a piece of Republican propaganda disguised as a fact-based adventure film. However, although I wrote a manuscript detailing the history of early twentieth century Libya, my knowledge of the current situation there is limited. I came across this blog entry by a native of Benghazi that is intelligent and eloquent and I feel deserves a wider readership. So if there are any out there who want reality instead of hyperbole I think you will find this post of interest.

  7. Believe it or not, for the last 2 years the Libyan army in Benghazi has been and still is, fighting the same terrorist group that killed The American Ambassador Chris Stevens. And all this time Obama and Hillary did not lift a finger to help us. As a matter of fact they have done totally the opposite, by doing everything through the UN to stop the legitimate and elected Libyan government from buying arms and munition for the army to defeat these terrorist. Try and explain this to the Libyan public, and the American public.

    Imagine this, In New York, a war breaks out between two organised crime families, the Gambino family (who previously killed a high ranking FBI official) and the Genovese family. The FBI decided to intervene by sending sharp shooters to help the Gambino family. Well this is exactly what is happening now in Sirte (Libya) , where two terrorist groups are fighting it out. Obama have sent his air force to to help the terrorist group who is affiliated and a supporter of the terrorist group that killed the American Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi. Confused?…. you should be.

    When the American Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed in Benghazi. The Americans have identified Abu Khattala as the leader of the terrorist group that killed him, so with the help of local Libyans The Americans, swooped in and extracted Abu Khattala to an American Ship waiting off the coast of Libya and then on to the USA. Capitol hill, congress, senate, and the American public were happy for a job well done, but is it?. Everyone in Libya knew that Abu Khattala did not and could not have done this job single handed, he had at least 40 to 50 terrorists with him to do the job.

    This begs the question of, why America – with it’s technical prowess and it’s ability from 10 miles up to drive a bomb through a window in Afghanistan – did not attack Abu Khattala’s camp with all those terrorists in it, and why America have decided to to intervene in Libya in support of those vicious terrorist in the west of Libya against a democraticaly elected parliament in Tobruk and it’s legitimate government in Bayda. Does America really support democracy.

  8. I haven’t seen the movie, just seen trailers. This is one thing that I really like about blogging. For example here, where else could I have gotten the reaction of someone who actually lives in Benghazi? Thank you for your post.

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