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
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
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
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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