Published Aug 02, 2017Those familiar with the comedy of Bill Hicks undoubtedly recall a biting rant about marketing: "If anyone here works in marketing or advertising… just kill yourself. Seriously. You are Satan's little helpers." It's debatable whether or not marketers should always get a bad rap, but as far as the artistic world is concerned, they should. Marketing can be a murky, soulless place, and few profiles demonstrate that more aptly than Kristoffer Borlgi's DRIB. It's an exercise in satire that raises numerous questions, among them: is this really a true story, as claimed? DRIB begins as a documentary, and morphs into a mockumentary / re-enactment.
In 2014, Iranian born performance artist from Norway Amir Asgharnejad gets internet traction with a series of viral videos where he provokes strangers and gets punched out — badly. Asgharnejad wants to do for Youtube what "Andy Kaufman did for wrestling." Of course it's all staged, but he manages to convince most people, including credible news outlets, that it's real.
Eventually, an LA ad firm catches wind of it and wants to attach an energy drink brand to this "streampunk" trend of guerrilla Youtube behaviour. We're meant to believe that this tale is real — that there was an energy drink at the helm of this, one that fancies itself a creator of content before chemical drinks.
Amir is flown to L.A. in hopes he'll agree to be a high-concept energy drink pitchman, and build similar content in support of DRIB energy drink, hinting that he drinks it to get himself psyched for stunting. The man behind the brand is Brady Thompson, played by Brett Gelman in a roll that personifies a marketing guru with bad intentions.
The amount of table-setting includes the laying the groundwork for why Amir actually agrees to do it. He connects with his friend, director and writer Kristoffer Borgli, and they work to tell the story as a non-fiction re-enactment, under Amir's condition that he play himself. He swears this is — in large part — a true telling. His goal is to dismantle it all from the inside.
Adding to the intrigue is the presence of British actor and anti-bullying campaigner Adam Pearson, playing himself. He suffers from neurofibromatosis, a condition that causes tumours that create facial deformity. His powerful cameo grounds some of the madness with a heartfelt spot about bullying, possibly throwing a lifeline to those in marketing. Notable also is marketing intern Cathy Rothman (Annie Hamilton), a potential love interest to Amir that never quite happens, who is also aware of the shitshow industry in which she works.
At its core, DRIB exists to rip modern marketing to shreds. That may seem an easy target, since we all face blurred lines when it comes to advertising and content. Yet DRIB manages to avoid some obvious cliches by being current and layered. It flirts with being too meta when Amir attempts to "punk" the making of this film about him, and Borgli struggles occasionally with dry, fly-on-the-wall comedy. But it may be required watching for Marketing 101, so in that sense, mission accomplished.