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EDITORIAL – 3/12/2009: TERRORISM FIT FOR COMEDY

By Andrew L. Urban.
It was with a burst of interest that I opened the press release announcing a ‘terrorism comedy’ being shot in Melbourne by the team that made The Jammed (2007), led by writer/director Dee McLachlan. Titled Eliminated, the film takes the reality TV format as its structure, with a panel of judges drawn from the ranks of guerrillas to decide which contestant will be crowned Master Terrorist.


Bad taste? Unfunny topic? Far from it. Joy to my ears – for several reasons.

First, all good comedy rests on serious matter. And as British writer/comedian Stephen Fry points out, the saving grace of comedy, its raison d’etre, is that we can simultaneously laugh at something and also take it seriously. You only have to look at Jewish humour to see his point.

"to satirise the crazy world of terrorism"

Second, the potential for the film to satirise the crazy world of terrorism is a chance for us to fight terrorism with one of humanity’s most powerful weapons: ridicule. I am hopeful that Eliminated will encourage filmmakers around the world to make movies that ridicule Islamic extremists, showing them as immature, primitive, misguided, gullible tools of their ‘leaders’ – who worship power, not the Prophet. Our fear of terrorists should be swamped by our laughing at them.

Once this catches on around the world, we will see how effective ridicule can be as the engine for people revolutions against extremism – inside as well as outside Islamic communities. Like Afghanistan, where the Taliban are soooo old world; all fire and brimstone, gnashing of teeth, socially backward and morally inverted – with nothing to show for it. Are they happy? Do they smile? Nor do the Al Qaeda mob: ever see them crack a joke on those awful home movies they make? You can’t trust (or like) people who have no sense of humour. It’s high time someone (Anthony Ackroyd where are you?) made a video in response to that insufferable duffle bag, Osama bin Laden, warning his lackeys to look out for some serious ridicule coming their way by a West that’s filled with comedic talent.

Third, the scale of the subject matter is universal; it is large enough to be an appropriate topic for the big screen. As the Metro Screen OzFilm Forum (October 22, 2009) heard, one of the essential ingredients for Australian films to connect with audiences is their scale – not necessarily budget, but thematic scale. Backyard wrangles are simply too small and belong on the small screen. Our expectations of a cinematic experience needs that larger, broader, bigger canvas. The topic also offers considerable dynamics, another key factor that propels audiences into the cinema.

Fourth, the subject is driven by socio-political factors, something all too rare in Australian films. The Jammed (a fact based thriller about human trafficking and the sex slave trade in Melbourne) connected with audiences for these reasons, too, and distributor John L. Simpson is again handling the distribution.

It will take skill and lots of cinematic talent to make it work, but I wish Eliminated well. Congratulations producer Andrea Buck and director Dee McLachlan; sock it to me! (Old Laugh In joke…)

Published December 3, 2009

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