The use of the documentary to revisit and recreate activity from real life but using actors who are directed to star in a film within a film, is an idea that has been kicking around for a while now. I thought that Louis Theroux’s application of this in ‘My Scientology Movie‘ (2015) was interesting as it made his subjects relive their own violent experiences.
‘DRIB‘ is a little different from this. Comedian and performance artist Amir Asgharnejad went viral a number of years ago as he uploaded videos of himself taunting security and other officials on the streets and as result gets beaten up. With more than 90k hits on one video, in particular, it is evident that these acts of self-imposed violence are quiet the clickbait story. Following this, Amir gets asked to be the face a new marketing campaign advertising energy drinks. He views this as another act of art, and sees his participation in this a mere performance.
The film itself is a dramatic retelling of the planning and production of this marketing campaign. For legal reasons, the filmmakers have renamed the energy drink “DRIB”, hence the title. Amir plays himself, whilst actors replace the PR and marketing people. As a critique of macho meatheaded consumerist ideals, there are some interesting ideas in play. It isn’t anything new though.
One immediate problem is that Amir is not featured in the traditional interview form enough. There are a handful of occasions where the scripted drama cuts momentarily and we return to Amir in the framed interview state, talking to camera. This usually corrects a small detail or sets a scene. There are so many more opportunities for him to express how he felt, reenacting the campaign for instance. This would’ve been far more interesting.
Early on in the film, Amir tells us that he is interested in seeing himself as a performance for the media, and that Andy Kaufman was an influence on him. The rest of ‘DRIB‘ then plays out like him saying ‘look how great my work is’. It immediately strikes me that it seems pretty arrogant to make a documentary about yourself. Whilst Amir isn’t the filmmaker, he did demand to be the lead in the film.
There are some funny sequences. It is clear Brady (Brett Gelman) and some of his collaborators in the advertising world are out of touch and deluded. Their lack of cultural understanding is captured really well in the script. Gelman’s depiction of Brady, even at his most annoyed, is very controlled and knowing. The playfulness of the film is again evident in the use of PC Music’s Felicita on the soundtrack.
‘DRIB‘ reaches a lot of problems when it comes to the look and feel of the actual branded energy drink. The movie takes itself way too seriously, with a lot of the focus on creating an energy drink brand that is faux-fashionable. The presentation of the product, though important in the creation of the marketing world, should never have featured this much. The stylised scenes where the fake drink is advertised to the audience directly aren’t needed. They distract from what could’ve been an interesting study of an underground performance maker.