Two more to disturb

Theatre chains in the U.S. are refusing to screen D.O.A.P depicting the “assassination” of George W. Bush, reviewed in the October Canscene. Which will guarantee millions of sales for the eventual release of the DVD, striking another nail in the coffin of theatrical screenings. One wonders when the first major studio production made strictly for DVD release will be announced.

Now the lot of controversy falls to Larry Charles’ Borat subtitled Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and Tony Kaye’s Lake of Fire.

Borat

Borat discovering USA
Already the title character played by British comic Sasha Baron Cohen has drawn a cautionary word from the Anti-Defamation League in the United States. A news release says “not everyone will understand the satirical nature of Cohen’s sketch; the humor may be dangerously too sophisticated
for some. When approaching this film, one has to understand that there is absolutely no intent on the part of the filmmakers to offend, and no malevolence on the part of Sasha Baron Cohen, who is himself proudly Jewish.”

Borat, a Kazahk television personality is sent by his government to study the culture of the United States. Cohen plays his role broadly in a stereotypical Eastern European accent, openly spouting hatred for Jews, gypsies and gays and demonstrating his lack of knowledge about western ideas of politics, celebrity, hygiene and etiquette.

Sticklers for political correctness may well take exception to this frequently crude but uproariously funny film; from where I sat at a TIFF media screening I heard more laughter than I’d heard at any other festival showing.

Actually, although the opening and closing scenes in Borat’s homeland are obviously overdrawn, his experiences in the United States while broadly staged, add some highly satirical touches as he meets with American customs, mores and faiths. Behind the humour of each situation lies some acute social criticism.

Cohen’s penchant for personally promoting his film took him recently to the gates of the White House and a presidential snubbing: It remains to be seen how Alabamans, Christian fundamentalists, celebrities and businessmen will take some of the humour.

One can’t imagine, however, that Borat will meet with the inevitable picketing and even mayhem that may result from the public screening of Lake of Fire which at the time of this review had not yet been purchased for distribution.

Lake of Fire

Lake of Fire: two sides of the abortion question

Lake of Fire is indeed a hot potato. No wonder: the subject is abortion and it took 15 years for director Tony Kaye to complete this 150-minute film. Shot in stark black and white it purports to show both sides of the pro-life/pro-choice argument which in many parts of the United States has moved from heated protest to battleground proportions.

Kaye shows an abortion performed by professionals and balances this with footage on the consequences of self-performed abortions. These sequences have real shock value but viewed in context cannot be contused with sensationalism

Kaye goes out of his way to probe the complexities of the issue, giving time to both sides, but although to liberal leaning audiences his own viewpoint seems clear, he attempts to score no easy victories. He shows hard-core pro-lifers and their impassioned opposites. He interviews members of the fundamentalist Christian right, nurses and doctors whose lives have been threatened, details actual murders of pro-choicers that have been committed and those who like Noah Chomsky dissect the issue’s grey areas. And of course, the mouthpiece of the antis, Pat Robertson, joins the fray.

In what is to me, a key scene, Kay has a reporter questioning a hard-core pro-lifer who declares that God himself has decreed that “murderers of innocent babies deserve to be executed, as do others who contravene Biblical doctrine like gays and blasphemers.”

“Do you mean to say that if I say ‘goddam’” asks the reporter, “I deserve to be executed?”

“Yes,” says the pro-lifer.

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