The long awaited feature film debut from Chris Morris (Brass Eye) premieres at this weekend’s Sundance Film Festival. A co-production by Warp Films and Film 4, Four Lions is a comedy about four young Muslims from the North of England who set about creating a terror cell of ‘Jihadis’. It’s directed by Morris, and co-written by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, who created Channel 4’s Peep Show.
The project started life with plans to make a sitcom around the idea, but both the BBC and Channel 4 turned it down due to it’s controversial nature, so Morris turned to Warp Films for help to take it forward. The two have collaborated in the past on the BAFTA winning short film My Wrongs 8245–8249 & 117, and Warp‘s record label having released some of his other work with cds of Blue Jam, and more recently On The Hour. However with there still being a shortfall in the budget they could stretch to, Warp sent out a request to his fans by e-mail asking for donations from £25 to £100 to further finance it, with the reward of getting to appear in the film as an extra as way of a reward. In the end, donations weren’t required as Film 4 stepped in and with funding finally secured in May 2009, filming finally began in Sheffield.
It’s obvious, with the nature of the British media, that Four Lions will evoke some strong reactions and outrage from certain quarters, but it should be noted that Morris carried out very extensive research for three years before embarking on this. He spoke to police, secret services, terrorism experts and perhaps more importantly, hundreds of Muslims, and the film intends to show up the ‘farce’ of terrorism with the aid of satire. No stranger to controversy, Morris was famously demonised by a large part of the tabloid press in 2001 after the airing of a Brass Eye special on the subject of Paedophilia (partly written by Charlie Brooker). Members of Parliament jumped on the bandwagon, even though they admitted they hadn’t actually watched it, calling for it to be banned and never shown again. It was hugely ironic to most people who did watch the show, as it was exactly this sort of tabloid hysteria that was the programme’s satirical target. To their credit, Channel 4 stood by Morris, and the show, and even gave it a repeat showing shortly after.
After it’s Sundance debut, a general release is yet to be confirmed, but The Guardian website unveiled an exclusive clip from the film today. In the meantime, if you’re not sure whether or not Four Lions is for you, I’ll leave the last word to Chris Morris himself who summed it up well with this…”Most of us would dearly love to laugh in the face of our worst fears. Why aren’t we laughing at terrorists? Because we don’t know how to, until now.”