Bollywood movie Jo Bole So Nihaal angers some Sikhs, leads to calls for censorship and terrorist attacks
In Delhi, special police units have been posted at more than a dozen film theaters showing Rahul Rawail’s Hindi-language film Jo Bole So Nihaal / He Who Believes Will Triumph, following two blasts at movie houses in the Indian capital that left 1 dead and 49 injured.
Starring Bollywood muscleman Sunny Deol, the hero of numerous flag-waving Indian films, Jo Bole So Nihaal is the unlikely tale of a kind-hearted Punjabi police officer who is sent to New York to aid the inept FBI track a terrorist intent on killing the U.S. president.
According to the Agence France-Presse, the Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the highest authority in the Sikh religion, has demanded that Jo Bole So Nihaal be banned on the grounds that both the film’s negative portrayal of a Sikh character and its use of the Sikh religious chant as its title are offensive to Sikhs.
Following protests from the SGPC, Jo Bole So Nihaal was withdrawn from theaters in the heavily Sikh northern Indian state of Punjab last week.
Bollywood films have had their share of ethno-religious controversy in recent months. Earlier this year, the northeastern Indian state of Assam banned Mani Shankar’s Tango Charlie, following widespread protests by the state’s ethnic Bodo population.
Around the same time, Pakistani film star Meera outraged radical Muslims in Pakistan because of a kissing scene in the Indian-made, supernatural thriller Nazar, while radical Catholics in India called for a ban of Vinod Pande’s Sins, which depicts a Roman Catholic priest having an affair with a woman half his age.
Jo Bole So Nihaal Sunny Deol photo: MDR Productions.
Submission: Part 1: Anti-Islam short film to be shown on Italian television
Written by van Gogh and Somali-born anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Submission: Part 1 consists of a series of images of a woman wearing a see-through burka, her body covered with words from the Koran. The short was shown on Dutch television last year, and is believed to have been the cause for van Gogh’s murder at the hands of a Muslim fanatic last November.
According to the BBC, politicians from the leading Italian parties urged Rai Due to show Submission: Part 1 in full so as to combat intolerance and support artistic freedom, but the station says it hasn’t acquired the rights to the film. Critics of the broadcast claim that the Northern League, an anti-immigrant and fervently anti-Muslim far-right political party, is behind the move to broadcast the controversial film.
Italian political leaders and ‘artistic freedom’: Support only when convenient
Unsurprisingly, Rai and right-wing Italian politicians didn’t seem all that eager to support artistic freedom when Rai’s executives axed several shows that portrayed right-wing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in a negative light. Nor have those leaders been all too eager to combat intolerance, as the Italian far-right has tried to invoke an old law so as to forbid Muslim women from wearing the chador in public.
Regarding Submission: Part 1, Muslim historian Khaled Fouad Allam argued in the Roman daily La Repubblica that censorship of a motion picture is not the issue at hand, complaining that the real problem is the censoring of a culture and the depiction of “the Muslim danger through the construction of a simplistic picture and the reduction of that civilization to a series of schematizations and generalizations leading popular world opinion to a growing hostility in the confrontation against Muslims.”
Clips of Submission: Part 1 have already been shown by two state-run television stations in Denmark, angering Muslim communities in that country. And earlier this year, Submission: Part 1 was withdrawn from the Rotterdam Film Festival due to security concerns.
Italian Muslim leaders fear that the broadcasting of Theo van Gogh’s short will serve to heighten tensions and help the cause of religious fanatics. [See also Submission: Part 2: Gays and Islam and check out Dennis Lim’s Village Voice review of Submission: Part 1: “The Day I Became a Martyr: Islam Protest Brings Fatal Fatwa.”]
George Lucas: Stars Wars III: Revenge of the Sith and Iraq War 2005: The Return of Vietnam
George Lucas, whose eagerly awaited (especially by desperate U.S. theater owners) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, explains that parallels between his film’s inter-galactic wars of the future and the earthbound wars of the present are mostly a coincidence. (Image: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith Hayden Christensen.)
“When I wrote it, Iraq didn’t exist,” Lucas said at a press conference. “We were just funding Saddam Hussein and giving him weapons of mass destruction. We didn’t think of him as an enemy at that time. We were going after Iran and using him as our surrogate, just as we were doing in Vietnam. … The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we’re doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.”
The Revenge of the Sith cast includes Hayden Christensen as Luke Skywalker, Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Natalie Portman as Padmé Amidala, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, and Whale Rider‘s Keisha Castle-Hughes.
In other Cannes 2005 news, the Parisian daily Le Monde calls Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas’ Battle in Heaven / Batalla en el cielo – no, this is not the Mexican version of Stars Wars – “a magnificent film about the mystical erotic pleasure of lost souls in the megalopolis of Mexico City.” The sexually explicit Battle in Heaven is the first Mexican film in fifty years to take part in the official competition. Along with Michael Haneke’s Hidden / Caché, Reygadas’ drama is the odds-on favorite for the Palme d’Or.
Less likely to win Cannes’ top prize is Masahiro Kobayashi’s Bashing, the story of a former hostage in Iraq ostracized upon her return to Japan. But Kobayashi’s remarks, including harsh words for the “conservative Japanese media” and the Japanese government of prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, have been quite memorable all the same. “I think that Japan is sick,” said the Japanese filmmaker while at Cannes. “There is a tendency to try and take revenge, to attack the weakest.”
George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith Hayden Christensen photo: 20th Century Fox.
Submission: Part 1 photo: VPRO.
Jane Fonda victim of spitting man’s tobacco juice
Jane Fonda remained calm and composed after a man spat tobacco juice in her face at a book signing in Kansas, where Fonda was promoting her autobiography My Life So Far.
The man, Michael A. Smith, 54, of Kansas City, did not like the fact that Fonda had been an anti-Vietnam war protester, later referring to her as a “traitor.” (According to reports, Smith is a Vietnam War veteran.)
After spitting on the 67-year-old actress, Smith tried to flee but was caught by police and charged with disorderly conduct. Jane Fonda, for her part, never left her seat. She wiped her face and went on signing books.
In a statement issued through her publisher, Fonda said, “In spite of the incident, my experience in Kansas City was wonderful and I thank all the warm and supportive people, including so many veterans, who came to welcome me last night.”
Jane Fonda movies
A film star since the early ’60s, Jane Fonda has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning twice: as a sex worker in Alan J. Pakula’s Klute (1971) and as the adulterous wife of a Vietnam War veteran in Hal Ashby’s Coming Home. Among Fonda’s other film credits are Sydney Pollack’s The Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin’s Tout va bien (1972), Fred Zinnemann’s Julia (1977), James Bridges’ The China Syndrome (1979), Mark Rydell’s On Golden Pond (1981), and Sidney Lumet’s The Morning After (1986).
Jane Fonda’s extensive list of co-stars includes Anthony Perkins, Lee Marvin, Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Michael Caine, Michael Sarrazin, Donald Sutherland, George Segal, Vanessa Redgrave, Yves Montand, James Caan, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, Jeff Bridges, Robert De Niro, Gregory Peck, Katharine Hepburn, and her father, Henry Fonda.