“Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time…” This is the chilling message that has threatened a terrorist attack to any cinema showing the new comedy The Interview.
On November the 24th Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked by a group calling themselves the ‘Guardians of Peace’. From the 30th November five of Sony’s films were leaked onto illegal file sharing websites while many communications between some of the company’s top executives, containing abusive conversations and financial details outlining the budget with The Interview, have been released.
These are only a few of the consequences that have come from the controversial new comedy by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The Sony-made film contains a plot that ultimately sees the president of North Korea, Kim Jung-un, assassinated. Back in June North Korea warned that there would be ‘retaliation’ if the film was made. Although North Korea has denied any involvement, the FBI announced last Friday 19th December that there was “enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible”.
In recent days the drama that has been unfolding took a more serious turn. Nine days before the Christmas Day premier of The Interview, a terrorist attack, the scale of 9/11, was threatened by these so called ‘Guardians’. What had begun as passive actions had now turned into a threat against innocent civilians.
As a result mainline cinemas began refusing to show the film and this ultimately caused Sony Pictures Entertainment to cancel the release of The Interview in any format (there is now talk of releasing it on the Sony-owned Crackle). This has been seen equally as both the right thing to do and as Sony bowing to terrorists’ demands.
Well, both are true.
What is important to remember when discussing this matter is that it is the responsibility of the US Government to stop terrorist attacks and not that of cinemas or studios. It is the responsibility of individual cinemas to ensure the safety of their customers.
As the cinemas could not guarantee that safety, Sony Pictures has suffered a simple supply-and-demand backlash. They received a very clear threat that if The Interview was shown then those cinemas would be attacked. For those of you that believe that Sony made the wrong decision and should have shown the film just think, if Sony had gone ahead and shown the film and there was an attack, then everyone would have accused Sony of thinking about customer’s wallets before their safety.
“What is important to remember when discussing this matter is that it is the responsibility of the American Government to stop terrorist attacks and not that of cinemas or studios.”
Yet despite this position of caution and responsibility taken by Sony, they have come under criticism for giving in to the whim of a terrorist. Most noticeable of all, Obama has given a speech in which he openly criticized this decision. In response to a question over the cancelled premiere, Obama stated that this sets a dangerous precedent, ‘where some dictator somewhere can start imposing censorship’ on what is meant to be people’s creative freedoms.
Obama makes an excellent point. Other studios may fear the embarrassment and financial cost that Sony has dealt with over this saga and so would be wary about what films they produce from now on, and would certainly consider pulling any such planned films from production to avoid the same repercussions.
Having creative freedom in the filmmaking process is what keeps this industry rich and inspired. Imagine if no controversial topic were ever explored in film. Audiences would never have seen The Exorcist or The Passion of the Christ and A Clockwork Orange would never have even been attempted. Movies can present thought-provoking ideas accessible to a wide range of audiences. This has been known to inspire and encourage intelligent debate that can expand our social understanding.
With these hacks and threats that have ultimately resulted in what should have been a fun, light-hearted comedy being pulled from release, our freedom of speech is being threatened. How long will it be before documentaries and even news broadcasts are being censored because a certain group does not agree with what is reported?
“Having creative freedom in the filmmaking process is what keeps this industry rich and inspired.”
The debate as to whether Sony should have pulled the movie or not is irrelevant, Sony made the responsible decision with the information they had at the time. Instead the focus should be on finding these cowards and bringing them to justice. As a movie fan it is a worrying prospect that something as simple as going to the cinema is now being targeted for potential terrorist act. It is a trend that we should all hope does not continue.