Monday, December 29, 2014

Sony Picture’s The Interview: Triumph Over Despotism?

Even though the risk-averse powers-that-be at Sony shelved its Christmas Day release, does the eventual Yuletide screening of Sony’s The Interview a “triumph over despotism”?

By: Ringo Bones

Thanks to the urging of US President Barack Obama to Sony Pictures Entertainment’s risk-averse CEO Michael Lynton to not bow down to the despotism of North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un and to go ahead as planned the Yuletide screening of the controversial political satire titled The Interview that stars Seth Rogen and James Franco, it seems that free speech has triumph again in America. Despite the boasts of the hacktivist group Guardians of Peace to unleash a 9/11 style terror attack if Sony chooses to release the film, everyone curious and brave enough to see what the hubbub is all about manages to express their right to free expression incident free. It might be a rather unprecedented uproar over a controversial work of political satire to the young folks out there, but it seems that the “politics” over satirical films preventing its screening in the name of censorship has happened before.

As a reaction to the rather brutal crackdown of Germany’s Jewish community during the late 1930s, iconic comedian Charlie Chaplain – who had gained enough clout in Hollywood from the brilliant success of his previous works in the box-office managed to convince top Hollywood producers to help make his then latest project a reality – a film satirizing a sitting head-of-state the then German Chancellor Adolf Hitler titled The Great Dictator. The then Prime Minister of Britain Neville Chamberlain blocked the screening of the film on British theaters in the hopes of appeasing Hitler and preventing an all-out war with Germany. But when the Hitler appeasing Chamberlin was voted out and replaced by Winston Churchill and by then Germany is already at war with Britain and the then new British PM Churchill allowed the screening of Charlie Chaplain’s The Great Dictator on British movie theaters as an act of defiance against Adolf Hitler. Given how controversial Chaplain’s The Great Dictator is to “German sensibilities”, it wasn’t until 1998 that The Great Dictator was screened in German cinemas.

Fast forward to 2014, the “political controversy” generated by Sony’s The Interview may be partly due to the film’s subject matter - i.e. the assassination of a sitting head-of-state of a deeply repressive and racist regime who deeply believes that their race of people are the sole inheritors of the planet – at least that’s what their megalomaniacal “Dear Leader” has constantly reassured them. Even though the North Korean Bureau 121 cyber-warfare team had managed to recruit hackers who are sympathetic to their rather repressive politics and “belief-system”, one wonders if the recent cyber-attacks at Sony Entertainment was due in part to their past sins committed in the past and the recent release of the rather unflattering racist e-mains are just the tip of the iceberg of “Sony’s sins”.