Cohen up to satirical tricks again in "Dictator"

Wed May 16, 2012 7:05am EDT
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By Sabrina Ford

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As the Arab Spring resulted in the deaths of thousands and the ousting of Middle Eastern leaders last year, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, disguised by a fake beard and accent, was filming his latest movie portraying a hated North African dictator.

Was it sheer Hollywood happenstance, calculated irony or comic genius? His co-stars, including Sir Ben Kingsley think the latter, and audiences can decide for themselves on Wednesday when "The Dictator," debuts in U.S. theaters.

Cohen plays fictional General Aladeen, the dictator of a made-up North African country, Wadiya. He is an insecure and idiotic leader who kills for the slightest offenses, believes in discarding female babies and counted North Korea's Kim Jong-Il among his friends.

The actor's brand of comedy is satire, and like his "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" and "Bruno," "The Dictator" means to shed light on racism and stereotyping across cultural boundaries.

Oscar-winner Kingsley, who portrays Aladeen's equally vicious uncle and nemesis Tamir, told reporters that the timing of filming last year during the Arab uprisings can be attributed to Cohen's comedic genius rather than an attempt to capitalize on those events.

"Sacha ... has his finger on so many pulses, politically, socially, which makes him the greatest comedian," Kingsley said. "(The Arab Spring) was present in the media everywhere and that was thrilling for us. We weren't in a vacuum. We were political satirists in a very real and definite context.

Cohen has made several appearances promoting his film but just as he did with "Borat" and "Bruno," he does so only as his character in uniform and typically with an entourage of beautiful women armed with fake machine guns.

"I want to thank the United Nations for their brave inaction over Syria," Cohen, as Aladeen, told reporters at a recent news conference in New York to promote the film. "Thirteen months and still no Security Council resolution. You guys are amazing. You have done next to nothing for the Syrian people, but remember, you can always do less."   Continued...

British actor Sacha Baron Cohen poses during a photocall on the Croisette for his latest movie "The Dictator", in Cannes, May 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier