Theater of Cruelty

F for "Fake"

Kamikaze comedy meets computational international business life in Norwegian hybrid documentaries.


You may have seen one of the videos of Iranian Norwegian Amir Asgharnejad on YouTube. The standup comedian was best known from underground scenes when he uploaded in 2014 a hugely popular two minute cut where he threatens a grown-up cast in Oslo with a bat. A moment later, the roles are turned on its head, and the ejector strikes Amir with one stroke.

This was the first video in a series of stunts that in reality (in this context, a relative term) was fake from end to end. Amir Asgharnejad is a performance artist based on the tradition of dangerous provocations, which his hero, the supposed deceased Andy Kaufman, made known in his time in Saturday Night Live. As the videos were viewed by millions and the press coverage spread from Vice to the BBC, dampened the spiteful Asgharnejad cheating aspect.

False marketing. Asgharnejad was understandably surprised when he was contacted by a leading advertising agency and asked to be an advertising figure for a well-known energy drink. Still, he decided to join the game, said yes, and was flown across the Atlantic to Los Angeles. Unaware that the videos were actually a joke, the advertising agency created its own cheating concept: a coarse-grained campaign that contained Asgharnejad's violent knockout. The entire campaign was scheduled to be officially withdrawn, and then leaked to unsuspecting media. After a fairly chaotic week in California, the fake marketing plan was ironically shattered, and Amir was flown home to Norway without the anticipated fee.

Despite signing an agreement with the agency not to disclose anything, Asgharnejad was persuaded to recreate his week in California by Norwegian scriptwriter and director Kristoffer Borgli. To avoid legal action, Borgli has given the energy drink the new name dribs. This has also been the title of this hybrid of documentary and fiction, which is Borgli's first full-length film. dribs wants to take us into a business universe characterized by commercial branding and PR manipulation – and thus on the inside of the energy drink industry itself, which has annual sales of $ 50 billion.

Glossy and soulless. Borgli has given the footage a glossy finish that reflects his notion of a soulless Hollywood filled with overbearing stuntmen, insane fortune hunters and unsuccessful film directors. This hyper-stylization is also noticeable on the sound side: When a character enters a room, each step is equipped with a hip sound image characterized by electronic pling and plong. Asgharnejad himself did not participate in what went on in the meeting rooms of the failed campaign, and thus Borgli has had to be creative on this point. Between such scenes, he infuses discarded documentary scenes with an Amir who occasionally refuses to stick to the fiction script.

dribs could easily have been only moderately entertaining relaxation, had it not been for the whimsical and creative role interpretation of Brett Gelman as Advertising Director Brady Thompson. Gelman has been an often unbearable presenter on television, in various American television series. IN dribs he adds a playful and clumsy obsession for the day that lifts the film out of the selfless indifference it often befalls. Every time Gelman is in the picture frame, if only the sound of his smoldering bye Bye in the phone, stay dribs living.

Every time Brett Gelman is in the picture frame dribs living.

The advertising beast.
In the opening of dribs Gelman serves a ten-minute monologue in an attempt to convince his skeptical, creative partner (Alexandra Marzella) that Asgharnejad's kamikaze absurdities are perfect for the energy drink's target audience. These are young people who no longer 'care about life. They want to live 100 percent here and now! ” Gelman cheerfully rejects several ideas, including high-flying concepts like collapsonomy og gourmetcore, and ends his hypnotic rhetoric by comparing his energy drink with "a punk version of the rebel space jump (an early online game, ed. note). On paper, this unusually long monologue might have seemed content to be wordy and mouth-watering, but Gelman infuses it with such comedic enthusiasm that we nurture a vain hope that dribs will manage to conserve this energy for the remaining 80 minutes.

Towards the end of the film, one might ask whether Amir's five days in the belly of the advertising bastion had won on being presented in short film form rather than the full-length film we are presented with. Director Borgli's voiceover suggests that the lovable Asgharnejad intended to rob dribs from the filmmaker during the shoot. Apart from a few useless takings, however, there is little to indicate that this is true. More focus is devoted to a meandering subplot involving an anxious intern (Annie Hamilton) trying to share a sleeping pill for Amir. A promising narrative thread follows a disgusted actor, Adam Pearson, who creates anti-mob advertising for a skin cream manufacturer – but the story eventually runs out in the sand.

Powerful companies use dubious methods to silence artists.

Fake in many layers. dribs would benefit from including documentary or dramatic recreation of the dark business powers that allegedly threatened the film after it was completed. Such an extra layer could illuminate the dubious methods powerful companies use to silence artists like Borgli and Asgharnejad. With this in mind, we are left to wonder about the events in dribs really took place, or maybe they are simply an advanced horror hatched by actor and director. A fake documentary about a fake advertising campaign with a fake energy drink in the center and with a famous producer of fake videos as an actor? Sounds plausible.

The movie goes to the movies.

You may also like