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WARSAW 2017 Discoveries

Drib: A film about a true story based on a lie


- Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli’s fiction-documentary film, starring comedian Amir Asgharnejad, is a true discovery

Drib: A film about a true story based on a lie
Amir Asgharnejad (centre) in Drib

In 2014, videos of a man provoking fights with bouncers, security guards and other people on the streets of Oslo, and then getting beaten up every time, went viral—and it turned out to be the Iranian-Norwegian performance artist and stand-up comedian Amir Asgharnejad. Soon, a Los Angeles-based advertising agency spotted the opportunity for an edgy marketing campaign for a new energy drink that was supposed to “look real” and go viral. They invited him on board as an actor under the pledge of the strictest confidentiality. What they failed to notice—perhaps since they didn’t know that aside from his career as a comic, Asgharnejad had also been a long-time admirer of Andy Kaufman—was that his performances were in fact staged from the beginning to end. In a nutshell, Drib [+see also:
film profile
, screened in Warsaw Film Festival’s Discoveries section, is a real (?) fiction-documentary film based on an attempt to create a real, but fake, advertising campaign, that was itself based on fake street performances.

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In the opening of the film, Drib advises its audience that all of the names—from the people to the companies and their products—have been changed in order to avoid legal repercussions, since the advertising company was, perhaps understandably, against the making of the film. If we believe what the film tells us—and it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that we can’t—the director and screenwriter, Kristoffer Borgli, is a good friend of Asgharnejad, who agreed to let him make the film, but on one condition—that he would be allowed to play the lead role himself.

This makes Drib’s narrative brilliantly complicated, presenting Borgli with several opportunities to create layers of metanarratives in the story, which he handles with astonishing deftness, especially for a first feature director. While Amir travels to Los Angeles in the film in order to enact Amir Asgharnejad’s story as it purportedly happened, several other parts are added as well, such as the imagined conversations between the creative director of the company and the junior creative director, a producer and an actor, etc. 

But what really makes the film outstanding is the inclusion of the parts that usually end up on the floor of the editing room, that is, the failed takes and the parts between the takes (or, again, the parts that we are led to believe are the failed takes). Amir in the film and Amir Asgharnejad, the actor, become so intertwined that it becomes impossible to separate one from the other, especially since Amir Asgharnejad, the actor, is apparently not satisfied with the role that has been written by Borgli for his character and feels that he is unable to tell the story as he would please. In the end, the one thing we can say for certain about Drib is that it is an unclassifiable film. Even with the recent blurring of the boundaries between fiction and documentary, it seems to be blending both modes of storytelling both thoughtfully and thoroughly. Most of all, it is a satire—the kind that targets not only the meaning of truth in the time of docufiction, viral videos and fake news, but truth in cinema as well.

The film is produced by Norwegian outfit Bacon Pictures.

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