I don’t find it surprising that Albert Brooks has a hard time getting his movies out there. I mean, they’re funny and smart and don’t include barely closeted bald musclemen interacting with ducks – why would America want to bother with them? But I do find it surprising that an Albert Brooks movie would have a hard time getting released because of its content.
His new film is called Looking For Comedy in the Muslim World, and it’s sent Sony into a panic, if you believe what the filmmaker says (and honestly, I have no reason not to). The film is about a State Department flunky who is sent to India and Pakistan to find out what Muslims find funny in an effort to bridge post-9/11 gaps.
"I steered clear of religion in this movie,” Brooks says. “There’s no mention of the Koran — the whole point of the movie is looking for comedy, not looking for God. I was allowed to film in the biggest mosque in India and when I told the imam the plot of the movie he started to laugh."
Sony denies that the Muslims aspects are what got it nervous (Brooks claims they jokingly asked him if the movie could just be called Looking for Comedy): "To those looking for truth in this manufactured controversy, here it is: We made our decision to pass on Brooks’ movie the same way we did to accept ‘Fahrenheit 9/ll’ — on the merits, with neither fear nor favor."
What an awful argument. Fahrenheit 9/11 made only a bazillion dollars and created a major national dialogue. I know that Sony has released way worse films than that, which did less business. Seeing a major film studio use “quality” as a reason to not release a film – unless the film in question is undeniably incoherently made – is laughable.
The film will now be released by Warner Independent Pictures, the fake indie arm of Warner Bros. Hopefully they’ll be more reasonable than Sony. Says Brooks: "One [Sony exec] told me that if a mullah in Iran saw a poster for the movie and took it the wrong way, I could be in deep trouble. I told him that I have trouble getting posters put up for my movies in Sherman Oaks."