Short films mocking the mounting defeats of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) at the hands of Iraqi forces in Mosul are making the rounds on social media sites and garnering millions of views among Iraqi and Arab viewers.
Titled "The state of ISIL fighters in western Mosul", these productions depict over the course of a few minutes satirical dialogues between two or more members of ISIL.
Actor Mohammed Qasim, who has performed in four of the films, told Diyaruna that such artistic productions serve primarily to "raise the morale" of Iraqi soldiers and those volunteering to fight ISIL.
"We should spare no effort in supporting the men who sacrifice themselves for us," he said.
"Our role as artists necessitates our participation in this war through the use of sarcasm [to ridicule] the terrorists," he said.
The films have revolved around the fighting to expel ISIL from Mosul, the group’s key stronghold in Iraq.
"We presented [the first] vignette at the start of the battle to liberate Mosul," Qasim said.
"After taking back half of the city and its airport, we produced two other vignettes followed by a fourth about the latest battles to liberate the rest of the neighbourhoods," he added.
The videos garnered millions of views on YouTube and social networking sites.
"We have made lots of videos [in the past], but these ones in particular were very popular," he said, noting that the first short film had close to five million views online.
"I have also received many thank you notes and positive messages from fighters and civilians alike, which has made me very happy," Qasim said.
Yousif al-Hajjaj, who starred in one of the films, said that the audience reacted favourably to them.
Al-Hajjaj played an ISIL character called Abu Qundara al-Roghani, a humorous name that means shiny leather shoes in Iraqi dialect.
The name "caused me a huge embarrassment in real life", he told Diyaruna. "However, this only serves to show to what extent these videos resonated with a wide segment of society, not only locally but across the Arab region as well."
Countering ISIL's propaganda
Al-Hajjaj said these productions have reached Mosul and even ISIL.
"At the end of one of the vignettes, an ISIL fighter flees while repeating in slang, 'We have seen neither houris [virgins in heaven], nor paradise,'" he said.
This statement, which reflects the deplorable state the terrorists are in, was scribbled on buildings across Mosul, he added.
"A war reporter for al-Iraqiyah channel in the city said that he found one of the videos on a mobile phone of a dead terrorist, which means that those videos have reached [ISIL fighters] and they have seen them," said al-Hajjaj.
"When Mosul is completely liberated, we will broadcast a special video that rises to the occasion," he said.
Raed al-Hamedawi, who directs these videos, told Diyaruna that he was keen on employing comedy and satire to shed light on the most topical issues in Iraq today, including terrorism and the battle for Mosul.
"We tried to showcase the ugliness of ISIL and what a cowardly and backwards group it is and that its members are no more than barbarians and ruffians that try to take advantage of and distort religion to commit their crimes," he said.
"We reflected this image through satire because jokes are easier to digest compared with news programs and political analyses," he added.
The goal was also to boost the fighting morale of Iraqi soldiers and counter ISIL's propaganda machine, al-Hamedawi said.
"We believe that we are achieving the desired result," he said. "Our ideas and messages are reaching people not only inside the country but also abroad [...] and we are happy with this success."