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S’only a Film for Heaven’s Sake!

Sony Pictures’ portrayal of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the new movie “The Interview” has caused a backlash of epic proportions. So much so that the media giant has pulled the US release of the movie, which was planned for Christmas Day. The film, a comedy about a fictional plot to assassinate the North Korean leader, sparked threats (albeit vague and unspecified) towards those who would screen or even watch the flick, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen.

US Superheroes Fight Back

 Despite there being no military intelligence that the aforementioned hackers could mount terrorist operations on US soil, the top three cinema chains in North America announced they would postpone screenings of the film. The only concrete evidence that foul work was at hand was a hacking attack on Sony’s systems that resulted in commercially private, and personally confidential emails being made public. Embarrassing, but not the stuff that US Superheroes are thought to roll up and die over.

Message that we Bottle

 The controversy has stirred up debate about censorship, which can only be a good thing. Even political heavyweights Barack Obama and Colin Powell have weighed in. We know that Sony is big business in the US but what does this mean for the average movie fan? I for one find it terrifying to imagine what could happen if the film industry, music industry or any other industry began to restrict access to content, based on extremist threats. Doesn’t America style itself as the “land of the free”? The American way has always been to not negotiate with terrorists and this contradictory move by Sony Pictures shows weakness on a global platform.

Freedom of expression?

Cancelling the release of “The Interview” has set the precedent that it is acceptable to limit freedom of expression in Hollywood because of opposing views. And, more worryingly, that any kid behind a computer can censor another nation’s output by means of a vague threat. Or is this more about Sony’s insecurities about the hacking of their email and internal systems, which has caused huge embarrassment and questions regarding the strength of their network? Or, even worse, some hybrid conflation of the two issues.

To Boldy Go

Clear thinking and firm leadership are required here; whatever it is that has led to the withdrawal of the film has to be scrutinised and taken seriously. Let the cinemas decide if they want to screen the film, and let the citizens decide if they want to run the risk of watching it. Failure to change this decision, or to provide compelling evidence to justify it, could take the entertainment industry, and democracies, down a very dangerous path.