[Originally published 25th October 2008; see below for updates.]
The new film from Chris Morris, the man behind Brass Eye, Jam, On the Hour, The Day Today and countless acts of media subversion, needs your money. After being rejected by the BBC and Channel 4, Warp Films are now producing the comedy about British jihadis, Four Lions. For twenty-five quid, you can appear in the film and tell your friends you had something to do with bringing the finished product to the screen. I wasn’t a big fan of his last series Nathan Barley – it didn’t quite catch the ferocity of Charlie Brooker’s original parody of a self-absorbed, public-schooled media twat (you can read a compendium of the Barley columns from the mock TV listings magazineTV Go Home, but I should warn you that it’s really, explicitly nasty), but his comedy pedigree is second to none, and its always worth keeping an eye on what Morris is going to do next.
Here’s the e-mail sent out by Warp Films:
At the moment the detonator’s going off and you’re part of it but until the effect has gone exponential, your mails are being sorted by one person so bear with me.
Many people have asked us exactly what the Four Lions project is. Clearly we can’t launch the film before its been shot, but I’ve pulled together a few paragraphs from the paperwork that’s been flying around. Its shameless hype but its accurate – unlike almost everything you will have read in the press. No one who has read the script could disagree with a word here.
In three years of research, Chris Morris has spoken to terrorism experts, imams, police, secret services and hundreds of Muslims. Even those who have trained and fought jihad report the frequency of farce. At training camps young jihadis argue about honey, cry for their mums, shoot each other’s feet off, chase snakes and get thrown out for smoking. A minute into his martyrdom video, a would-be bomber looks puzzled and says “what was the question again?” On millennium eve, five jihadis set out to ram a US warship. They slipped their boat into the water and carefully stacked it with explosives. It sank. Terrorist cells have the same group dynamics as stag parties and five a side football teams. There is conflict, friendship, misunderstanding and rivalry. Terrorism is about ideology, but it’s also about berks.
Four Lions is a funny, thrilling fictional story that illuminates modern British jihad with an insight beyond anything else in our culture. It plunges us beyond seeing these young men as unfathomably alien. It undermines the folly of just wishing them away or alienating the entire culture from which they emerge. It understands how terrorism relates to testosterone. It understands jihadis as human beings. And it understands human beings as innately ridiculous. As Spinal Tap understood heavy metal and Dr Strangelove the Cold War, Four Lions understands modern British jihadis.
If you’d like to know more or donate, visit Warp Films or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s rumoured that donors will receive a copy of the al-Qa’ida explosives manual, but I wouldn’t know anything about that…
Update 6th January 2009:
It seems that, even without having to borrow money from fans, Morris’s film has been greenlighted… er, greenlit… given the go-ahead. The Independent reports that Film Four will be funding it, and it should be ready by the end of 2009 (and say that’s a little optimistic, but maybe it won’t take very long to finish). So, I’ll start looking forward to the return of Chris Morris, and keep my fingers crossed that this doesn’t all end in burning embassies.
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