Amir Asgharnejad is the real name of a real guy, who happens to be appearing in a fake version of real events in this real movie, titled DRIB. ”Drib” is the fake name for a real energy drink, changed to avoid legal repercussions. DRIB – a partially real movie – is part documentary, part mockumentary and part dramatization. It’s an awkward beast and completely unconventional, but somehow manages to keep itself upright while straddling a variety of filmmaking styles to create a scathing criticism of media’s representation of reality.
Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli travels with his crew to Los Angeles to document a slice of Amir Asgharnejad’s experiences as a viral video star who finds himself roped into the corporate marketing machine. Amir, an internet famous sensation, made a name for himself provoking fights with random strangers on the street, and uploading the exploits to YouTube. The only catch is, the fights were faked, unbeknownst to “Drib”, the energy drink company that hired Amir to take part in their new, outrageous marketing campaign.
We never find out the real name of the company that “Drib” is referring to, but it doesn’t matter. DRIB is a knife in the heart of the advertising game as a whole. Amir – who agreed to let the filmmakers use his story as long as he could play himself – makes a mockery of the entire process, from the boardroom meetings, to the casting, to the filming, to the naturally anti-climactic conclusion.
Despite his droll demeanor, Amir is a compelling protagonist for a variety of reasons. His history as a viral star who creates fake YouTube videos paints him as an unreliable narrator from the outset. How much of his story is actually true? And on top of that, he’s playing himself. He’s not an actor, so he doesn’t emote like an actor would, which somewhat obscures his actual feelings to the viewer. We never truly get to know him. We only find out a few things about his real life, and what his motivations are. He remains enigmatic throughout.
There’s a section in the film where the dramatization completely breaks down, with Amir bursting out in laughter and looking to the frustrated director behind the camera. In addition to the re-enactments, we have Borgli’s interjections and narrative on his concerns about hiring Amir to play himself. DRIB frequently switches narrative styles, and I can’t think of anything else quite like it off the top of my head. It’s a hard configuration to explain to potential viewers, but it somehow fits together when the film is rolling.
As far as the other cast goes, Brett Gelman is a highlight as Drib’s creative director of marketing. He does a great job of portraying the head-up-his-asshole corporate stooge who uses words like “gourmcore” and “collapsonomics”. Adam Pearson – who, like Amir, also plays himself – is an incredible person and it’s cool to see him in a movie like this.
While we never really get to know Amir, I think that might be the point. His brief foray into the advertising world sees him enter as a mischievous prankster, but by the end of his time inside, he comes out looking like the straight man. DRIB keeps you on your toes with its eclectic mix of documentary and mockumentary. It also manages to be sporadically funny. It’s an invitation to question any media that purports to represent reality, and I think that’s a good lesson to teach.
DRIB made it’s Canadian Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival on July 23rd and will have an encore showing on July 27 at 3:30pm at the Salle J.A. De Sève