Seminar:" Comedy of Terrors: Strategic Offenses and Genre Tactics" by Dr. Samhita Sunya.
This talk examines three War on Terror comedies (“terror comedies”) from the Global South, all of which reference Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, 2008, United States, English), the Hollywood stoner-comedy precedent that most prominently inaugurated the genre of terror comedy. The three films – Tere Bin Laden (Abhishek Sharma, 2010, India, Hindi), its sequel Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive (Abhishek Sharma, 2016, India, Hindi), and Road to Kabul (Brahim Chkiri, 2012, Morocco, Arabic) – were hits in India and Morocco, respectively. The talk notes that their satirical prowess ensues from a cocktail of intertextual references to Hollywood cinema and the War on Terror, rendered from another side of the world – backstage, as it were. The three films’ comedic genre proclivities motivate a suspension of disbelief on the part of their audiences, who behold a set of implausibly zany characters and ludicrous storylines. The comedic intertexts are ultimately uncanny, as all three films render the War on Terror itself as a similarly bizarre, logic-defying genre of farce whose coherence depends entirely upon a suspension of disbelief on the part of its proponents.
Dr. Samhita Sunya is an Assistant Professor of Cinema in the Department of Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures at the University of Virginia. Her current project, supported by a Mellon Humanities Fellowship and residence at Yale University’s MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, builds on research conducted at the National Film Archive of India as well as the American University of Beirut, exploring South-South histories of cinema over the decades of the Cold War.