Indian Express/Arts Etc By Sanjukta Sharma
Albert Brooks samples Muslim laughter from Delhi streets in his new film.
YOU’VE seen him in Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver. In The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and in The Muse, where Sharon Stone played the title role. Twenty-six years after comedian Albert Brooks played himself in Real Life, another idea for a self-portrayal unfolded in his head. The plot: Politician-actor Fred Dalton Thompson summons Brooks to Washington DC. He must be a diplomatic emissary for the US government. His brief: ‘‘Go to India and Pakistan and file a 500-page report on what makes the over 300 million Muslims in the two countries laugh.’’ Unable to resist the prospect of a ‘Medal of Freedom’ that the effort would fetch him, Brooks arrives with a big crew in Delhi in early 2005.
Middle Eastern settings are unsurprisingly writ large over the lineup of the second Dubai Film Festival this weekend. The Film festival, which has livened up the Gulf city’s cultural life, is seen as a venue for new filmmakers to present their often quite challenging fare to audiences of considerable ethic diversity.
Top of the bill is Albert Brooks’s satirical Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, in which Brooks plays a man sent to Pakistan at the behest of the US Administration to forge a more harmonious post-911 world. Although the film sends up US policy and American ignorance about the region and its inhabitants, Brooks told Reuters news agency that its eye-catching title had caused Sony to pass on distribution rights for fear of arousing Muslim suspicion and reprisals.
Also screening are the Israeli-Palestinian co-production and drama Paradise Now, and a documentary about the Christian Lebanese Forces militia that slaughtered Palestinian refugees in 1982.