Hit & Run: Death threats are so 2009
Wednesday 29 July 2009
So, Sacha Baron Cohen has received a death threat from a Palestinian militia group who haven't taken kindly to their portrayal in Brüno. At least he can rest assured that he's in good company.
In the past, some of the world's finest filmmakers have received death threats for their work. Religion, of course, always fuels the flames, as Martin Scorsese found out when he adapted Nikos Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. It was not the first time he'd received death threats – he'd previously been intimidated by members of the Manson family after turning down the chance to play the murderous Charles Manson in a made-for-TV movie. But nothing prepared him for the reaction of religious extremists to Last Temptation, which offered an unorthodox interpretation of Christ's final hours.
Politics will fan the fanatics' flames, too. Take Michael Moore, who found himself victimised after speaking out against George Bush and his "fictitious war" in Iraq at the Oscars ceremony in 2003. By the time he premiered his Bush-bashing Fahrenheit 9/11 the next year, Moore was surrounded with bodyguards after being inundated with hate mail.
Perhaps the most famous example of filmmakers being targeted for their work, however, was for a film that had nothing to do with either religion or politics. Indeed, it's hard to imagine today Stanley Kubrick's ultra-violent A Clockwork Orange causing the outrage it did back in 1971. But after death threats were made to both Kubrick and his family, the director took the advice of the police and withdrew the film from circulation.
But while such dark hints have remained just that, one filmmaker was not so fortunate. Dutch director Theo van Gogh had already received threats to his life when his film Submission, a critical piece about the treatment of women in Islamic culture, was shown on Dutch TV. Then, while cycling to work in November 2004, he was stabbed and shot dead by 26 year-old Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch citizen with alleged terrorist ties. Perhaps Baron Cohen would be wise to keep his head down for a while yet. James Mottram
The hands-on guide to avoiding swine flu
It's used in hospitals to help stop the spread of disease, loved by clean-freaks and is in every seasoned festival goer's survival kit – but thanks to swine flu, hand sanitiser has become this season's must-have accessory. With increasing numbers of us scrubbing up on the go and more products becoming available, picking your sanitiser has become as important a decision as choosing a new handbag.
Faced with the Portaloos on day three of a festival? Splash on some Purell, a santiser that can be worn on a lanyard beside your access-all-areas pass. For those who like a bit of luxury, the only germ-killer to go for is Frais. Looking more like a perfume bottle than a medicinal gel, it's made from 60 per cent natural sugarcane alcohol and is blended with eight essential oils. Eco-warriors can make a statement with their choice too – Green People's foaming sanitiser boasts Manuka honey and essential oils. As for the worried well who are keen to avoid a case of H1N1 (pretty much everyone), use what the experts do. St John's Ambulance has a range of hand sanitisers that should keep your hands clean and your fears – more or less – at bay. Gemma Hayward
Playing the name game
Operation Panther's Claw, which Gordon Brown has declared a success despite 11 British deaths, was named after the 19th Infantry Brigade (aka the Black Panthers) and is suitably dramatic. Military annals are packed with similarly vivid names from the terrifying (Urgent Fury, Wrath of God) to the deceptively benign (Beaver Cage, Morris Dance) and the potentially misleading (Frequent Wind).
Winston Churchill paid close attention to this fine art. He requested random names for WWII operations, including Overlord and Apache, that would give nothing away. They had to strike a tone between boastful and banal, and should not, he decreed in a 1943 memo, "enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called 'Bunnyhug'". Simon Usborne
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