Political Film Review #538

A self-documentary in the style of Roger & Me, Bassem Youssef tells his story in Tickling Giants as he became the John Stewart of Egypt for four seasons. With considerable film footage, he begins as a heart surgeon who is caught up in the Arab Spring of 2011 within Cairo, making jokes amid protesters. He then opens his television show at a time when Hosni Mubarak is in trouble due to the demonstrations, continues during the election of 2011 and presidency of Mohamed Morsi, continues and ends soon after the election and post-election crackdown of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2014. Attracting the attention of John Stewart, he appears on the Daily Show, and Stewart flies to Cairo to appear on The Show. Comedy can be cruel, and those who do not see the irony involved can take humor as insulting, so Bassem begins to make enemies during the Morsi era, but he definitely goes beyond what el-Sisi can tolerate. For Bassem, comedy is one way in which the media can make those in power accountable for what they do, but dictators do not want accountability. One insight into the fall of Morsi is that he began to impose regulations on personal conduct, imposing Shari Law, and under Mubarak the secular rule was not intrusive. But el-Sisi permits no protest, going beyond his two predecessors. Bassem, accordingly, closes the show, is found guilty of insulting el-Sisi and Islam, and then flies to the United States to give lectures for a time. Credits at the end describe what his TV show assistants are now doing, though Bassem’s current role as surgeon in Oakland is not revealed. But the Political Film Society does reveal that Tickling Giants, directed by Sara Taksler, has been nominated for best film on democracy and best film exposé of 2017. MH

A plainer website has been chosen for the Political Film Society at the same email address that has been used for the last ten or so years. The new website also includes all reviews that were previously prepared under an earlier website. The main advantage is that the website has a Search capability, so you can now easily hunt for any previous review or for all films with a particular theme. The new website is especially functional for those who teach and want to search for a particular film to use in class or to cite in a publication. Go to www.polfilms.com and have fun searching and accessing all the buttons!