Four Lions, a British comedy about terrorism, screens on SBS One this Saturday. The film was originally scheduled to screen on April 20, 2013. And then the Boston Marathon bombings occurred. The decision to delay the film had to be made quickly, and when very little detail about the events was known. Some people reacted by expressing their approval about the decision, on the SBS Film Facebook page, others voiced disapproval. I found it easy to identify with most of the comments – although not necessarily the tone of some – and personally didn't feel strongly one way or the other.
Four Lions is an extremely funny film about a hot potato of a topic. Underneath that humour it is a welcome reminder of how the public perception of terrorists is ridiculously simplistic and one-sided. The characters in this film aren't dedicated radicals to be feared but bumbling idiots – and apparently they are based on years of research, which included studying the transcripts of court cases involving people that act like stoned students. Yes they are young British Muslims caught up with the idea of becoming suicide bombers, but their yearning for attention and their sheer stupidity makes their behaviour laughably absurd. Thus the film presents an alternate view that is invaluable as a mechanism for countering the voice of mass media and government.
The first time I saw the film, however, it made me uncomfortable. It was at the Sydney Film Festival and director of the film Chris Morris presented the screening. As a result of “meeting” him in this way, from the first scene I got rather hung up on the fact that here was a man from a privileged background unrelentingly poking fun at people from a different socio-economic and religious group; but this went unquestioned because his characters were doing something which, to most people, was unacceptable and unforgiveable. In other words the wrongs of the subjects made it okay for this “community” to be vilified, whereas this may not have been the case if the theme of the film was not terrorism but something that was much less of a sacred cow.
Since then, I've read a lot about what Morris himself says about his intentions and I no longer see the film as being about terrorism at all but as a portrait of human silliness. As Morris himself says, a gathering of terrorists can act as stupidly as a football team or guests at a stag weekend. I'm also relieved this view of the film leaves no place for my own self-imposed political correctness.
Watch 'Four Lions'
Friday 7 May, 7:35pm on SBS World Movies / Streaming after broadcast at SBS On Demand
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Director: Chris Morris
Starring: Will Adamsdale, Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Adeel Akhtar, Kayvan Novak, Julia Davis