by Jessica Hazel
Sacha Baron Cohen is not one to shy away from controversy. In fact, he has made a whole career out of it, pointing out the humour in all manner of taboo subjects and somehow not getting murdered by extremeists in the process. His last blockbuster "Bruno" received a smattering of average reviews, so his new offering "The Dictator" is going to have to blow everything else he's done out of the water. Cohen and co hired the best advertising and PR teams in the film business to come up with a campaign which started running months and months before the 16th May release date, a campaign which has reached fever pitch in the last week or so.
The Dictator is a heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed. This country is the fictional republic of Wadiya and Cohen plays the supreme leader Shabazz Aladeen. You can get the general gist by watching the trailer here.
The advertising campaign began with a pre-advertising campaign a few months ago where colossal billboards omitting any title, date or text of any kind adorned buildings and giant advertising spaces.
These images are in the same style as some political propaganda and only those who recognized the face of Ali G beneath the beard will have caught on.
Back in March, The Dictator launched a Republic of Wadiya website which is offered in English and Wadiyan. Aladeen has declared that the site is now bigger than Facebook.
On the website there are links to Robert Mugabe's website, North Korea, Cash4Gold, Victoria Secrets (for high-end hookers), a weather section for Wadiya and a calendar of events which includes a "Holocaust remembrance day" mourning the day that prisoners escaped Auschwitz.
Ali G's people have also organized a bus tour which is traveling around American Universities, raising the profile of the film.
An app has also been created "The Dictator: Wadiyan Games" in which you can take part in Aladeen's favourite sports, running, swimming, fencing and boxing, all with the added advantage of having a gun.
If you come first in all four games you can take a photo of yourself next to Aladeen and post it on your Facebook and Twitter.
Fast forward a few weeks to the Oscars and Sacha struts up the red carpet dressed as Aladeen (despite warnings that he might be banned from the ceremony by doing this). In his hands he holds a gold urn containing the fake ashes of Kim Jon-Un which he proceeds to throw all over a news reporter. He is then dragged away by security, if they are acting or not, remains a mystery.
Sacha also grabs a lot of attention by showing a Dictator ad at the Superbowl, while over here in the UK he takes over the front page of the Metro with a fake cover story entitled "Prime Minister Resigns". Now if that's not going to grab a nations attention then I don't know what is.
Quite what strings Sacha has to pull to get away with so much and what kind of a budget he is working to makes you wonder. If the box office figures make it all worthwhile then that there is a hugely successful advertising campaign which knows no limits.