Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
Originally set for a Christmas Eve release across North America, The Interview is a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, as two journalists recruited to assassinate the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un. Hackers had targeted Sony Pictures, and then threatened cinemas intending to show the film, claiming “the world will be full of fear”. The North Korean state denied involvement, but labelled the threats a “righteous deed”. The FBI believe the group, called Guardians of Peace, are connected to North Korea.
North Korean ambassador Ja Song Nam wrote to the UN Secretary General: “To allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.” In a defence of expressive freedoms, US President Barack Obama said:
We cannot have a society in which some dictators someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States, because if somebody is able to intimidate us out of releasing a satirical movie: imagine what they start doing once they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like. That’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.
Assassinations of political leaders have been investigated before in fiction. Death of a President was a documentary-style film released in 2006. The film showed various interviews, entwined with hand-held videos, fake news reports and feeds from security cameras, about the fictional assassination of then-incumbent President George W. Bush. Newly in 2015, the BBC will produce a radio series based upon Hilary Mantel’s The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, a collection of stories pulsing with psychological unease. Alternate histories, centred upon flashpoints such as political assassinations, are an genre of fiction. Stephen Fry’s book Making History describes a counter-factual timeline where Adolf Hitler never existed.
Light comedy can be used to burrow deeper topics. Made by the creators of South Park, Team America: World Police rendered the role of ‘the world’s policeman’ literal. The United States is depicted with a terrorist response force, in the style of Thunderbirds. In the film, this force must stop a major attack – described as being like “9/11 times 2,356”. This attack is organised by the Dear Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il, who is aided by Alec Baldwin and the Film Actors’ Guild (F.A.G.). Scuttling among the puerile levity, there are considerations of American foreign policy, celebrities within political debates and the legacy of the September 11th terrorist atrocities. A comical documentary, The Red Chapel, follows Danish comedians going to North Korea under the pretenses of a cultural exchange.
(Video: Picture Box Films)
The United Nations found Kim Jong-Un’s government is committing “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations”, including executions and starvation. The state is also led by its Eternal President Kim Il-Sung, who died in 1994. It is a government of death, by death, for death. In this dark world, it is important to laugh at its absurdities.