‘The Dictator’ criticised by Arab groups

Sacha Baron Cohen is accused of making a 'modern-day minstrel show'

The Dictator has come under fire from Arab-American groups for its apparently negative portrayal.

Sacha Baron-Cohen‘s new comedy sees him portray Admiral General Aladeen, former despotic leader of fictional North African country the Republic Of Wadiya. But the film has now been accused of reinforcing negative stereotypes.

Nadia Tonova, director of the National Network for Arab American Communities told E! Online: “I have not seen the film, but based on the trailer and interviews that I have seen him to in character, it really seems to be that it’s perpetuating a negative stereotype against Arabs and therefore Arab-Americans. And I feel it’s harmful to the discourse, especially these days when we are seeing the number of profiling incidents here in the US against Arab-Americans.”

Meanwhile, US Arab comic Dean Obeidallah compared Baron Cohen’s portrayal to the painted-face portrayal of African Americans by white actors, calling the film a “modern-day minstrel show”. He wrote: “What would the reaction be if a white actor in blackface mocked African-American culture? Or if an actor of Arab heritage pitched a movie about the leader of a fictitious Jewish state in which he would portray the Jewish leader and showcase the worst stereotypes of Jews? Is there any chance that film would get the green light from a Hollywood studio?”

Baron Cohen’s film is described as “the heroic tale of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed”. It sees Admiral General Aladeen travelling to the US to address the United Nations, where he is betrayed and debearded by his uncle Tamir, played by Ben Kingsley.

Watch the trailer for The Dictator below.