Film Four, the production company behind the adaptation of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, have decided to shoot to remainder of the movie in a different location, after threats of violent disruption from a small group of the area’s Sylheti Bangladeshi residents.
Last week English PEN had a letter in the Guardian protesting the protests. It was signed by Lisa Appignanesi (Deputy president, English PEN), Hanif Kureishi, Anthony Lester QC, Salman Rushdie and Gillian Slovo. They pointed out that the Muslim protestors were in a minority, and urged action from the authorities in the face of the threats:
Though legitimate protest and expression of views is just fine, English PEN trusts that this time should there be any concerted physical attempt to stop the production – as in the case of the play Behzti in Birmingham – the police, with the full backing of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will stand squarely behind the film, its author and the right to free imaginative expression.
Then Germane Greer wrote a rather silly article in the Guardian which appeared to support the protests, and attacked Monica Ali on the grounds of not being Asian enough to write about the community in Brick Lane. Greer did not condone violence, but somehow concluded that the residents had the “moral right” to prevent filming. However, she did make one highly pertinent point:
There is only one remedy available if your reality is being recycled through a writer or a movie-maker, and that is to write your own novel or make your own film – and accept ostracism as your just desert.
It is not known what proportion of ring-leader Abdus Salique’s little band of censors are able to read and write.
Greer’s article rekindled an old feud between herself and Salman Rushdie (Greer shamefully refused to support him during the Satanic Verses affair), and Rushdie fired off another angry letter to the Guardian, branding her “philistine, sanctimonious and disgraceful”.
All in all, quite an entertaining week combining self-inflicted bad publicity for the Bangladeshi Muslim community, and good publicity for the upcoming movie.
When will they ever learn?