The Dictator (2012 film)

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The Dictator
The Dictator Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Larry Charles
Produced by Sacha Baron Cohen
Alec Berg
Jeff Schaffer
David Mandel
Anthony Hines
Scott Rudin
Todd Schulman
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen
Alec Berg
Jeff Schaffer
David Mandel
Starring Sacha Baron Cohen
Anna Faris
Ben Kingsley
Music by Erran Baron Cohen
Cinematography Lawrence Sher
Edited by Greg Hayden
Eric Kissack
Production
  company
Four by Two Films
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s)
  • May 16, 2012 (2012-05-16)
[1]
Running time 83 minutes
99 minutes (Unrated cut)
Country United States[2]
Language English
Budget $65 million[3]
Box office $179,379,533[3]

The Dictator is a 2012 American comedy film co-written by and starring Sacha Baron Cohen as his fourth feature film in a leading role. The film is directed by Larry Charles, who previously directed Baron Cohen's mockumentaries Borat and Brüno. Baron Cohen, in the role of Admiral General Aladeen, the dictator of the fictional Republic of Wadiya visiting the United States, stars alongside Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Jason Mantzoukas, and an uncredited appearance by John C. Reilly.

Producers Jeff Schaffer and David Mandel said that Baron Cohen's character was inspired by actual dictators Kim Jong-il, Idi Amin, Muammar Gaddafi, and Saparmurat Niyazov.[4]

Plot[edit]

The fictional flag of the Republic of Wadiya

For years, the Republic of Wadiya (located in the Horn of Africa, fictionally supplanting the actual nation of Eritrea) has been ruled by Admiral General Haffaz Aladeen, a childish, tyrannical, lecherous, misogynous, anti-western and antisemitic despot who surrounds himself with female bodyguards, sponsors al-Qaeda (specially giving shelter to Osama Bin Laden after "they killed his double one year ago") and is working on developing nuclear weapons to attack Israel. His one saving grace is his refusal to allow Western companies to exploit Wadiya for its oil, a promise he made to his father on his deathbed. After the United Nations Security Council resolves to intervene militarily, Aladeen travels to the UN Headquarters in New York to address the council.

Shortly after arriving, Aladeen is kidnapped by Clayton, a hitman hired by his treacherous uncle Tamir, whom Aladeen's father passed over as successor in favor of his son. Tamir then replaces Aladeen with a dimwitted political decoy named Efawadh, whom he intends to manipulate into signing a document nominally democratizing Wadiya while opening the country's oil fields to Chinese and other foreign vested interests. Aladeen escapes after Clayton accidentally kills himself in a botched torture attempt; when his corpse is discovered Tamir thinks Aladeen has been killed. However, Aladeen is practically unrecognizable as Clayton shaved off his trademark long beard prior to his death.

Wandering through New York, Aladeen encounters Zoey, an activist who offers him a job at her alternative lifestyle co-op. Aladeen refuses the offer and encounters "Nuclear" Nadal, the former chief of Wadiya's nuclear weapons program, whom Aladeen thought he had previously executed over an argument about the warhead's shape. Aladeen follows him to New York's "Little Wadiya" which is populated by refugees from his country, and meets him in Death to Aladeen Restaurant, run by and visited by numerous people whom Aladeen had personally ordered executed. Nadal saves Aladeen from nearly being recognized by angry refugees and reveals that rebels sabotaged the secret police, and all the condemned were sent into exile instead of being executed. Nadal agrees to help Aladeen thwart Tamir's plot and regain his position as 'rightful' dictator, on condition that Aladeen makes him head of Wadiya's WMD program again. Aladeen agrees and accepts Zoey's job offer, as she is catering at the hotel where the signing is to occur. Aladeen grows closer to Zoey after she refuses his sexual advances and teaches him how to masturbate, and eventually falls in love with her after seeing her angry. Turning around Zoey's struggling business, Aladeen begins imposing strict schedules on everyone, forming a personality cult around Zoey and intimidating an inspector into giving the store a good review.

However, Aladeen's relationship with Zoey becomes strained after he decides to be honest with her and reveal his true self; she cannot love a man who was so brutal to his own people. After acquiring a new beard taken from a corpse, Aladeen infiltrates the hotel and tells Efawadh he has recovered (his double being fooled into thinking the Supreme Leader was ill). At the signing ceremony, he tears up Tamir's document in front of the UN delegation, and holds an impassioned speech praising the virtues of dictatorship, drawing unintended parallels to current issues in the US. However, upon seeing Zoey in the room, he declares his love for her and, knowing Zoey's strongly held views, vows to democratize his country and open up Wadiya's oil fields for business, but in a way where the general populace will benefit. Angry with Aladeen staying in power, Tamir attempts to assassinate him but Efawadh jumps in front of the bullet and survives, as it is his job "to be shot in the head".

A year later, Wadiya holds its first democratic elections, although they are rigged in favor of Aladeen (having now added the titles President Prime Minister to his previous Admiral General). Afterwards, he marries Zoey, but is shocked when she crushes a glass and reveals herself to be Jewish; throughout the film he was shown vowing to "destroy Israel". Scenes during the credits show Aladeen's convoy, now consisting of eco-friendly cars, visiting a reinstated Nadal, and later Zoey revealing in a television interview that she is pregnant with the couple's first child. Aladeen responds to the news by asking if Zoey is having "a boy or an abortion".

Unrated version[edit]

The unrated cut of The Dictator runs an additional 15 minutes from its original 83-minute theatrical version. Much of the added material is additional sexual content and dialogue. There is a scene following Aladeen falling asleep in the back of the store where one of his bodyguards, Etra, tries to kill him by beating him with her enlarged breasts. Another added scene is Mr. Ogden, the manager of the Lancaster Hotel, talking to Zoey at The Collective and canceling the catering contract because of Aladeen.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The Plaza de España served as Aladeen's palace in the movie

The distributor Paramount Pictures described the film as "the heroic story of a North African dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed."[8] Paramount said the film was inspired by the novel Zabibah and the King by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein,[9] though The New York Times later reported it is not an adaptation.[5] Kristen Wiig and Gillian Jacobs had been considered for the role that Anna Faris eventually played and which Variety said "calls for strong improvisational skills".[7] Baron Cohen, who also plays Efawadh in the film, based his performance primarily on Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.[10][11] The film is dedicated to Kim Jong-il.[12]

Morocco had been considered as a filming location.[7] Location shooting took place at the Plaza de España in Seville and on the island of Fuerteventura, Spain,[13] and in New York City from June to August 2011.[5] Baron Cohen said the United Nations refused to let him film scenes inside the UN Headquarters and claimed they explained this by saying, "we represent a lot of dictators, and they are going to be very angry by this portrayal of them, so you can't shoot in there." When asked about it, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman commented by saying only, "Sacha Baron Cohen has a wonderful sense of humor."[14] The United Nations shots were at a soundstage at Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York.[15]

Marketing and publicity[edit]

The film's showing at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival

A version of the trailer was made for a Super Bowl XLVI commercial in February 2012.[16] Archival news footage of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and David Cameron in the beginning of the trailer are excerpts of their 2011 speeches condemning Colonel Gaddafi.[17]

Internet rumors claimed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had banned Baron Cohen from attending the 84th Academy Awards in his role as Admiral General Aladeen, but the Academy said the rumors were unfounded, saying, "We haven't banned him. We're just waiting to hear what he's going to do," and specifying of the publicity stunt: "We don't think it's appropriate. But his tickets haven't been pulled. We're waiting to hear back."[18] Baron Cohen eventually appeared at the awards' red carpet with a pair of uniformed female bodyguards (resembling Gaddafi's Amazonian Guard) and wielding an urn purportedly containing the ashes of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, which the actor spilled onto E! host Ryan Seacrest. The ashes were later reported to be pancake mix.[19]

Baron Cohen appeared in character on the May 5, 2012, episode of Saturday Night Live during the "Weekend Update" segment, in which he appeared to torture film critics A. O. Scott and Roger Ebert to give the film positive reviews, as well as seemingly holding director Martin Scorsese hostage.[20] Baron Cohen released a video in the wake of the 2012 French Presidential Election, congratulating François Hollande on his victory,[21] and appeared in character with the pair of uniformed female bodyguards on the May 7, 2012 episode of The Daily Show.[22]

A publicity prank involved fake invitations that have been arriving in mailboxes in Washington, according to which "President Robert Mugabe and the Ministry of Education, Sport, Art, and Culture invite you to the Premiere of The Dictator." Screening of the film would purportedly take place at Mugabe's palace in Zimbabwe on May 12.[23]

Music[edit]

The film score was composed by Erran Baron Cohen. The Dictator - Music from the Motion Picture was released on May 8, 2012 by Aladeen Records. The majority of the songs are sung in Wadiyan; despite it being a fictional language.[clarification needed] However, it is closely associated with the German, Hungarian and Arabic languages.[citation needed]

No. Title Performed by Length
1. "The Next Episode"   Aiwa, Mr Tibbz & Admiral General Aladeen 2:43
2. "Ila Nzour Nebra"   Jalal Hamdaoui & Driver 3:22
3. "Habibi"   Ali Hassan Kuban 4:21
4. "Everybody Hurts"   MC Rai 5:28
5. "Wahrane Wahrane"   Khaled 4:43
6. "9 to 5"   Michelle J. Nasser 2:41
7. "Goulou L'Mama"   Jalal Hamdaoui & Cheb Rayan 4:01
8. "The Song of Admiral General Sargeant Aladeen"   Erran Baron Cohen feat. Omar Fadel 2:56
9. "Let's Get It On"   Mohamed Amer 1:57
10. "Raoui"   Souad Massi 3:47
11. "Money's on the Dresser"   Erran Baron Cohen feat. Jules Brookes 2:45
12. "Our Beloved Leader"   The Aladeenies 2:01
13. "Wala Ala Balo"   Amr Diab 5:09
Total length:
40:45

"Mundian To Bach Ke" by Panjabi MC and Jay-Z was featured in the trailers.[24] "Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)" by Pitbull was featured in the second trailer.

Reception[edit]

The film has received mixed to positive reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 57%, based on 209 reviews,[25] about the same as Ali G Indahouse (56%), lower than Brüno (68%), and much lower than Borat (91%).[26] The critical consensus was: "Wildly uneven but consistently provocative, The Dictator is a decent entry in the poli-slapstick comedy genre."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of a possible four, saying, "The Dictator is funny, in addition to being obscene, disgusting, scatological, vulgar, crude and so on. Having seen Sacha Baron Cohen promoting it on countless talk shows, I feared the movie would feel like déjà vu. But no. He establishes a claim to be the best comic filmmaker now working. And in a speech about dictatorships, he practices merciless political satire."[27] Slant Magazine conversely concluded, "bound to be one of the year's biggest comedy letdowns, The Dictator doesn't so much stir hot-button issues as showcase a great satirist off his game."[28] Keith Uhlich of Time Out approved, giving it four stars out of five, and calling the opening scenes in the film "a brisk, hilarious jeremiad" and its ending monologue "a rousing, uproarious climatic speech worthy of both Chaplin and Team America."[29]

Several reviews noted that the Marx Brothers' 1933 film, Duck Soup, inspired parts of Baron Cohen's 2012 film.[30] Scott Tobias of AV Club noted that "Admiral General Aladeen and Rufus T. Firefly share the same bloodline, representing a more generalized contempt for world leaders of any stripe, whether they don a 'supreme beard' or a greasepaint moustache."[31] Scott Wilson of the Nashville Scene detected "an echo here of that funniest of xenophobe-baiting funnies, Duck Soup."[32] Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone claimed that Baron Cohen's film "dodges soothing convention and ultimately merits comparisons to the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup and Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator."[33]

Censorship[edit]

The film has been officially banned in Tajikistan,[34] described as "unlikely" to be shown in Turkmenistan,[35] shortened to 71 minutes by the censorship in Uzbekistan,[36] and banned from screens two weeks after its premiere in Kazakhstan.[37] Rumors were circulating that the film has been also informally banned from showing in Belarus,[38] but state officials denied this referring to trivial deficiency of properly equipped movie theaters suitable for showing the film distributed exclusively in digital format.[39] The film was also reportedly blocked from theaters in Malaysia.[40] In Italy the reference to the "Italian Prime Minister" in the scene with Megan Fox has been substituted by a generic "politician", to avoid referring to Silvio Berlusconi.[41]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kaufman, Amy (April 9, 2012). "The Dictator moves off Dark Shadows release date". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 7, 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ Buchanan, Jason. "The Dictator". AllRovi. Retrieved April 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "The Dictator". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 1, 2012. 
  4. ^ Stuart Jeffries, The Dictator: are we right to laugh?, Guardian (May 15, 2012).
  5. ^ a b c Lim, Dennis (May 3, 2012). "Comic Guerrilla Tries Sticking With the Script". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d "The Dictator (2012): Acting Credits". All Media Guide via The New York Times. 
  7. ^ a b c Sneider, Jeff (April 28, 2011). "Kingsley joins Baron Cohen's 'Dictator'". Variety. Archived from the original on May 6, 2012. 
  8. ^ Morgan, Sam (April 29, 2011). "The Dictator Nabs Ben Kingsley". Hollywood.com. Archived from the original on May 7, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2011. 
  9. ^ Szalai, Georg (January 20, 2011). "Sacha Baron Cohen's 'The Dictator' to Open in May 2012". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on May 6, 2012. Retrieved May 6, 2012.  Additional Webcitation archive, May 6, 2012.
  10. ^ Sherwin, Adam (May 18, 2012). "Sacha Baron Cohen: UN was scared of my 'dictator'". The Independent (London). 
  11. ^ Sacha Baron Cohen: Qaddafi inspired "Dictator", CBS News, May 18, 2012
  12. ^ Baron Cohen takes no prisoners as 'The Dictator'[dead link]
  13. ^ "¿Distingue Fuerteventura en la película de Baron Cohen?". Canarias7. January 13, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2012. "La película 'El dictador', del humorista Sacha Baron Cohen, que se rodó parcialmente en Fuerteventura, se prepara para su estreno en todo el mundo. En el primer tráiler, que ya se puede ver, se aprecian algunas imágenes rodadas en la isla majorera, en concreto un plano aéreo con carros de combate y escenas con unas militares haciendo ejercicios de artes marciales. ... El rodaje incluyó también escenas en Sevilla, concretamente en la plaza de España."  (Spanish) Google Translation: "The film 'The Dictator' ... was filmed partially in Fuerteventura.... In the first trailer, ... one can see some footage shot on the island of Fuerteventura, in particular an airplane with tanks and military scenes.... The shoot also included scenes in Seville, specifically in the plaza...."
  14. ^ 'The Dictator' Star Says UN Banned Him To Protect Dictators, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, May 19, 2012.
  15. ^ "'Spider-Man' sequel films at Grumman, Gold Coast Studios". Newsday. Retrieved 2014-05-17. 
  16. ^ Littlejohn, Georgina; Eleanor Gower (2 February 2012). "'I just bought NBC, I know the final score, enjoy the game': Sacha Baron Cohen stars in special Super Bowl film trailer for The Dictator". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
  17. ^ Child, Ben (December 15, 2011). "The Dictator trailer: does Sacha Baron Cohen rule OK?". The Guardian (London). Retrieved December 17, 2011. 
  18. ^ Belloni, Matthew (February 22, 2012). "Academy: Sacha Baron Cohen Not 'Banned' From Oscars But 'Dictator' Stunt Unwelcome". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  19. ^ Daniels, Lauren (February 27, 2012). "Sacha Baron Cohen Dumps ‘Ashes’ on Ryan Seacrest at Oscars Red Carpet". Time. 
  20. ^ Fowler, Tara (May 6, 2012). "'The Dictator' tortures Martin Scorsese on 'SNL'". Digital Spy. Retrieved May 6, 2012. 
  21. ^ Félicitations officielles du Général Aladeen au nouveau président français (in English with French subtitles). ParamountFrance via YouTube. May 6, 2012. Retrieved May 7, 2012. 
  22. ^ "'The Dictator' Tells Jon Stewart About His New Bestie, Rick Santorum — VIDEO". Archived from the original on June 18, 2014. Retrieved May 18, 2012. 
  23. ^ Sacha Baron Cohen tries to punk Washington, The Washington Post, 05/08/2012
  24. ^ "‘The Dictator’ dances to Bhangra tune Panjabi MC’s ‘Beware (Mundian To Bach Ke)’chosen as official movie song". The Asian Today. The Asian Today Ltd. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  25. ^ "The Dictator (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 25, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Celebrities » Sacha Baron Cohen". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  27. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 9, 2012). "The Dictator". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 18, 2012. 
  28. ^ "The Dictator". May 12, 2012. Retrieved May 18, 2012. 
  29. ^ Uhlich, Keith (May 17–23, 2012). "The Dictator". Time Out New York. Retrieved June 13, 2012. 
  30. ^ Fraley, Jason (May 18, 2012). "'The Dictator' demands we taste the 'duck soup'". WTOP. Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  31. ^ Scott, Tobias (May 15, 2012). "Review: The Dictator". AV Club. Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  32. ^ Wilson, Scott (May 17, 2012). "The Dictator's too gentle, but Sacha Baron Cohen may have Duck Soup in him yet". Nashville Scene. Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  33. ^ Travers, Peter (May 16, 2012). "The Dictator: Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 11, 2012. 
  34. ^ "'The Dictator' Banned in Tajikistan". RIA Novosti. May 18, 2012. Retrieved May 18, 2012. 
  35. ^ Harding, Luke (May 18, 2012). "Tajikistan bans The Dictator". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 18, 2012. 
  36. ^ The Dictator shortened after censorship in Uzbekistan, UzNews, 25.05.12
  37. ^ "The Dictator banned 2 weeks after premiere in Kazakhstan. In Pakistan, only the censored version has been released.". Tengrinews.kz English. Retrieved June 1, 2012. 
  38. ^ Какой "Диктатор"?, TUT.BY, 22/05/2012
  39. ^ асилий Коктыш: "Никакой политики в непрокате "Диктатора" нет, TUT.BY, 22/05/2012
  40. ^ Worgan, Mark. "Sacha Baron Cohen In Trouble With The Real Dictators". Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  41. ^ http://www.toylet.it/2012/27630/dittatore-censurata-battuta-su-berlusconi.toy

External links[edit]