• Review: Tickling Giants (2017)

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Sat Mar 18 21:56:28 2017
    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: Dr. Bassem Youssef was a heart surgeon in
    Cairo who was fascinated by "The Daily Show" and its
    host Jon Stewart. He quit medicine and started his
    own satirical daily show, patterning himself after
    Stewart, but in a country where extremists can be
    deadly. This documentary, heavily laced with humor
    and satire, tells the story of Youssef and his
    send-up show(s) under three dangerous and autocratic
    presidents of Egypt. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or

    Back in 2011, Egypt's Arab Spring protests against the country's
    then-President Hosni Mubarak managed to depose him. The days
    following deposing Mubarak were heady times for Egyptians. The
    protest, largely waged by youth, had overcome the corrupt regime,
    toppling its most powerful man. About the same time one Dr. Bassem
    Youssef had been making humorous short films for YouTube. It was a
    dangerous pastime, but Youssef thought he might be able to get away
    with it. He was taking his chances. His films poked fun at a
    number of political targets including President Hosni Mubarak
    himself. His little satirical jabs were very popular on-line.
    They were so popular that Youssef--till then a heart surgeon--
    decided to take a risky course for his life. In the good feeling
    following the fall of Mubarak he gave up a profitable career in
    medicine to become a full-time comedian and offered to do a TV show
    of political satire, much like Jon Stewart's program on American
    TV, "The Daily Show". Youssef much admired "The Daily Show" and
    very much borrowed its format. Somewhat modeling himself after
    Stewart, he created and wrote for the Egyptian TV show "The Show".
    With humor that could easily have gotten him into deep trouble with
    the government--could even have gotten him murdered--he nonetheless
    poked his barbs at the Mubarak regime. The Arab Spring became an
    epic struggle in itself, but in the end Mubarak was forced to
    resign, his regime was deposed, and Mohamed Morsi replaced Mubarak
    as president.

    Despite expectations, Mohamed Morsi proved to be no better a
    president than Mubarak, allowing himself to be dominated by the
    Muslim Brotherhood. TICKLING GIANTS chronicles Youssef's humor and
    the politics of Egypt through three presidents, each a tyrant.
    Youssef seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of humor jabs and
    like Jon Stewart was willing to unleash that humor on the
    government. His popularity was huge. Youssef was one of the most
    recognized personalities in the country. He formed a fast
    friendship with Jon Stewart and each appeared on the other's
    program. By this point Youssef was so popular in his country that
    the government could not squelch him. In a country where life is
    cheap for those opposing the government, he continued to do his
    thing and became a great believer in the power of a sense of humor
    to give strength, even while being accused of insulting the
    government's people and institutions.

    The documentary TICKLING GIANTS was produced, written, and directed
    by Sara Taksler and it is laced with Youssef's humor. It tells
    dangerous episodes in Youssef's history and some of the humorous
    ones. More importantly, it gives us a look at Egyptian politics at
    a high level.

    The main point being driven home is that the right to satirize
    government is one of the most important freedoms. The viewer is
    shown what it can do and, perhaps as importantly, what it cannot
    do. This documentary juxtaposes humor with tragedy even as Youssef
    himself does. I rate the documentary a high +2 on the -4 to +4
    scale or 8/10. TICKLING GIANTS had a limited release March 15.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper

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