It’s safe to say the folks who think Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan is a victim of post traumatic stress disorder, not a terrorist with a laundry list of ties to radicalism, won’t be tickled to see “Kalifornistan.”
The new film, an unabashed assault on Islamic extremists, comes from conservative filmmaker Jason Apuzzo. The movie fuses film, video, documentary and surveillance footage to follow a terrorist planning to wipe Los Angeles off the map. He’s too extreme even for Al Qaeda, but that might not stop him from carrying out his plans. He somehow finds time to stalk an exotic dancer (Govindini Murty, also the film‘s executive producer).
Apuzzo, who most recently co-directed the Liberty Film Festival, says he wanted to make movie to satirize “the madness, the insanity of terrorism.”
“I thought that the best way to do that was to tell a story from the perspective of a terrorist on the streets of Los Angeles who doesn’t recognize how deranged his own behavior is,” Apuzzo says.
The film’s villain is steeped in both Bush Derangement Syndrome and the very worst of the Left’s talking points concerning its ideological foes.
“He believes all the lies he’s been told about how awful America is, how inferior women are, how Republicans and white people are out to get him,” he says. “He’s completely delusional.”
Yet the terrorist character’s inability to see through his muddled thinking makes him a comical figure of sorts.
“So there’s a lot of pathos and humor there,” he says.
It’s precisely the kind of approach lacking in mainstream Hollywood movies, including ones on the more daring independent film circuit. Today’s movies tend to satirize the evil war machine (“In the Loop”) or question the United States’ involvement in the Middle East (“Body of Lies”). Rare is the film that blasts those who commit terrorist acts, and Apuzzo thinks that’s a shame.
“We’re in a war right now, yet no one is making films that actually depict what the enemy is like, and how deranged and occasionally ridiculous these people are,” he says.
Apuzzo says his movie treads a delicate line between mocking terrorists and finding humor born of tragedy.
“What’s being satirized in ‘Kalifornistan‘ is the worldview of Islamic terrorists, not the violence they commit,” he says, adding the film takes full advantage of the “baroque“ characters found in the strip clubs, gun shops and abandoned warehouses featured in the story. “The humor in ‘Kalifornistan‘ is really just there to draw you in to what is very serious, dark subject matter.”
A film like “Kalifornistan” with no bankable stars or major studio behind it could have a tough time getting exposure. But Apuzzo has experience dealing with independent film, particularly projects shot by conservative filmmakers. He helped run the Liberty Film Festival, an annual event which gave right-thinking artists a place to show their projects.
Screenings for Apuzzo’s film will be announced soon, but people can pre-order the DVD on the film’s web site – www.kalifornistan.com. The DVD’s official release date is Dec. 15, 2009.
“We found that the best approach for indie films is to narrow the release windows in order to take advantage of when films get their initial media coverage,” he says.
Mainstream press outlets rarely give the kind of exposure to conservative films that they heap upon movies by the likes of Michael Moore. But Apuzzo says traditional outlets are starting to pick up on his film.
He hopes his new film will share elements from movies made during the 1960s, “an extremely creative time for the cinema,” he says.
“The films that really inspired me were the more experimental films from that period – like Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Alphaville,’ or Gillo Pontecorvo’s ‘Battle of Algiers,’” he says. “Those films combined narrative and documentary in a way that was totally groundbreaking.”
Apuzzo isn’t worried about an Islamic backlash to his film, even though one of the world’s biggest directors recently tweaked his movie to avoid such a controversy.
Roland Emmerich, the director of the new blockbuster “2012,” says he decided against toppling the Kaaba, a holy site in the Islamic faith, in his new film for fear it could anger Muslims – and potential incite repercussions.
“’Kalifornistan’ isn’t really about Islam, because what motivates the terrorist in the film is anti-Americanism. He’s motivated more by politics than by religion,” he says.
Apuzzo wants audiences to be entertained by his new film, but his ambitions for the movie don’t end there.
“I also hope "Kalifornistan" can be a breakout film for people who’ve been wanting American movies to be a little more honest, a little more truthful about the world we’re actually living in,” he says. “If that happens I’ll be thrilled.