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The Hamburg Cell (2004)

A fictionalized account of the September 11 hijackers.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Maral Kamel ...
Mohammed Atta (as Kamel)
Aysel (as Agni Tsangaridou)
Ramzi bin al Shibh
Kamel Boutros ...
Mohammed Atta (as Kamel)
Tamer Doghem ...
Omar El-Saeidi ...
Mark Clifton ...
Flight Simulation Instructor
Salim (as Navíd Akhavan)
Joel Kirby ...
FBI Agent
Pan Am Instructor


Ziad Jarrah, a young Lebonese man from a good family goes to Germany to attend college and starts dating a Turkish girl named Aysel. Although not very religious and accustomed to Western ways, Ziad becomes "brothers" with some fundamentalist Muslims and is slowly drawn into becoming "a Good Muslim". Mohamed Atta and others instill Ziad with a hatred of Jews and "Infidels", which leads to a desire for Jihad and martyrdom. He moves to Hamburg to study aeronautical engineering, attends an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and deceives his girlfriend and family about his involvement. He eventually attends flight school in Florida with Atta and others, waiting for and preparing for "the big wedding" (the 9/11 attack). Meanwhile, US government and law enforcement officials fail to act despite believing that a major terrorist attack is imminent, and despite noticing a number of suspicious persons involved in flight training. Written by TimeNTide

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | War





| |

Release Date:

10 January 2005 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A hamburgi sejt  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


During the sequence when Jarrah, Atta, and bin al Shibh travel to Afghanistan to train, they are seen using AK-47 assault rifles. Automatic weapons fire is heard, even though they are clearly not shooting. See more »


Ziad Jarrah: [On a cell phone] I'm at the departure lounge.
Marwan Shehhi: Me too.
Ziad Jarrah: Our time has come at last...
See more »


Written by Nick Phillips
Performed by Boxsaga
See more »

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User Reviews

The Arab perspective
18 December 2004 | by (United Arab Emirates) – See all my reviews

As soon as The Hamburg Cell, a British television production was screened at the Dubai International Film Festival 2004 ( DIFF), many voices echoed in the spacious hall of Madinat Theatre to ask the same question : ' What is the intention of producing such a film? It still remains a big question why the movie had to be shown in an Arab country-based international film festival even when its screening was expected to trigger trouble rather than promote understanding. It was fortunate that the educated cultured Arab expatriates who viewed the film were not stirred beyond certain limits. Egyptian born actor Kamel, interestingly declining throughout the event to reveal his family name, told news agencies that he feared that the audience's reaction could have erupted into violence. " I thought somebody could throw something," said Kamel. " When I was coming up the stairs I thought this could be the moment." He also expressed concern that one day he would have to confront the hijackers' families. Even though the movie was screened elsewhere, it was in the Dubai that kamel came to view it for the first time.

But back to the question of intentions, it was hard to say that the production was basically directed against the culprits or their countries as much as it was against their crimes. But the film in its totality came lacking in several respects with regard to in-depth analysis and cultural facts that made it appear more like a suspense movie rather than a dramatic treatment. But after all the 9.11 attacks were definitely possessed of a high suspense element and could inspire a perfect disaster genre. However, Finola Dwyer, the film producer who was also present, played down the suspense aspect, stressing the political and the social dimensions of the issue. Considering the film from that latter perspective, it is worth underlining the factor of timing: it is as yet too early to produce a movie about that mammoth terrorist happening. Not all facts relating to the disaster are available and we expect much more to be unraveled in the future. Dwyer refused to recognize the question of timing and went on to add that for the film to avoid appearing tilted towards the West, a team of Arab actors were selected to cast in the film. But how would that matter when the actor is not the one who constructs the screenplay! Claims came that the movie was accurately researched with some of the facts provided by the CIA. But the viewing of Hamburg Cell still didn't add much to what came in the media reports throughout the last three years.

In Hamburg- the coastal German city- where the terrorists were said to have started planning for the deadly operations which claimed 3,000 lives, we encounter bearded fundamentalists who brain-wash young students with secular tendencies. In one example, that of Atta, there is a fleeting scene in which we understand that pressures by his father to get a PhD might have driven him towards such activities. But at no point are we enlightened about why those students succumb to the fundamentalists' wishes while their Saudi accomplices were pushed to the sidelines!

On the cultural platform we are told that the attackers, besides the political motives, were disgusted by the Western materialistic lifestyle in which an individual's goal is no other than property like a villa, a car and other perks that accompany an executive position. The political motive was hardly there, only a short fight and a dispute between Jarrah and a Palestinian mate remain one among a few other details highlighted to accentuate the political aspect of the terrorists' motive. No images of their original background in their home countries was ever there. No images of Israeli and American aggressions on Iraq and Palestine were directly cited, although these are still the only excuse left for people in the Islamic world to express sympathy for the cause of the terrorists.

It is important to note that the Arab and Islamic countries have undergone similar terrorist attacks by extremists in their recent history. What makes 9.11 different is the magnitude of the aggressions and their target being the US, the sole superpower. The production and related articles, however, are not primarily meant to turn the discussion into a political controversy. It is more about the drama and whether it fits into the subject matter. Karim Saleh said that every one has reacted to the 9.11 attacks, so why not the cinema. Right, but more daring would have been a documentary in which the producers could have focused on the attackers as well as the victims' families, the ground that breeds fundamentalism, the ambiguity that still surrounds the operations. It is understandable that this would have been a cumbersome task with much being kept as top secrets. But again if this is the case how could the Hamburg Cell be realistic if a lot of information is still in the realm of secrecy!

At this stage we need a down-to-earth version of the disaster. In drama a lot can be added or deleted as in Titanic and other disaster films. At least in a matter as sensitive as the 9.11 attacks, still one of the main players on the political scene, a sensational like Hamburg Cell should figure at the bottom of the list. More than a suspense, in these troubled waters marking the world's political scene, we need works that provide more understanding than ones which increase tension. And at a film festival meant to bridge cultures the Hamburg Cell should have been excluded, just for the sake of peaceful moments enjoyed amid the conflicts that endanger world peace, stability and a prosperous future for humanity.-----( ENDS)

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Interesting subject, needless imagery ukaskew
Uh, why are they all speaking English? changeover3
does anyone know if it will ever be released on DVD national2
propaganda again? casadepensii
Did anyone catch this? Endurancegirl21
The Hamburg Cell on HBO towohlfahrt
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