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Friday 30 August 2013, 17:24

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

A few days ago a truly bizarre promotional kit was sent out to the press for the film A Belfast Story. Here I unveil its contents and ask 'Why?!'

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    Comment number 1.

    In this case, it is rather irresponsible, like the snakes in the post. Surely there could have been better ways that could advertise the film tactfully. Nonetheless, the scary thing, it looks like it has got people talking.

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    Comment number 2.

    That's the last nail in the coffin of film marketing.

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    Comment number 3.

    I think i've got a story that manages to top even free snakes, in terms of being misjudged. The French video distributors GCR thought the best way to promote the up coming release of 'Mississippi Burning' was to distribute free Ku Klux Klan masks.

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    Comment number 4.

    Snakes in the post. My worst nightmare. For you pub quiz fans, it's called 'ophidiaphobia' and I can't even watch a moving image of a snake. Couldn't you make charges under some kind of harrassment law or something? Utterly terrifying and not in a cool horror film way.

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    Comment number 5.

    It is in rather poor taste although I suppose the nails and tape could come in handy if you are doing some DIY!

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    Comment number 6.

    Being from Belfast I am particularly annoyed by the stupidity of the film production team. After the majestic brilliance of Good Vibrations, a Belfast story is setting my local film scene back 20 years with this. Had anyone even heard of the film before this controversy?

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    Comment number 7.

    This is an incredibly stupid and seriously careless move on the part of the director, i cant understand why someone who seems to want to portray a grim and realistic film about the troubles in Ireland would decide to do this. He has apologized but this is a juvenile move which has drawn attention to the movie for all the wrong reasons.

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    Comment number 8.

    I hope A Belfast Story makes less money than Dyer's Pimp.

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    Comment number 9.

    Sadly enough, this type of viral marketing works. If it weren't for the outrage I probably would never have heard of the film. Therefore, the best way to deal with such campaigns is to completely ignore them.

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    Comment number 10.

    Looks like Michael McIntyre's man drawer.

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    Comment number 11.

    This is just embarrassing. As a resident of NI and a writer/ film-maker, this is the sort of stunt that just gets us noticed for all the wrong reasons.

    I’m guessing someone thought this would be really edgy, probably the same people who think Mrs. Brown’s Boys is really edgy. Most of the items in that box I just found baffling. I wonder how much of their budget they squandered putting together a press kit which will probably be binned by 99% of the people they send it to.

    This makes me furious when there are so many talented indie film-makers in NI being turned away by the major funding bodies, but who still struggle and make full-length films for less than this gimmick probably cost.

    To me, a stunt like this smacks of desperation; a last ditch effort to grab some headlines for a film that they probably think is going to, excuse the pun, bomb.

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    Comment number 12.

    Thanks for mentioning Once Upon A Time In America. What a great film, going to watch it tonight.

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    Comment number 13.

    Dumber than a bag of hammers... (Sorry - had to)

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    Comment number 14.

    I have to agree with kaaliz, such a waste of money which could have went to struggling filmmakers and the only reason people are even talking about this film is because of the press kit.
    They knew it would cause a stir and they have done just that, but if anything it will just hurt their film.
    That snake thing did make me laugh which also reminded me of a recent videogame called Hitman: Absolution being promoted through a Facebook app.

    It allowed players to "target" their friends by identifying them with racist descriptions which I won't say on here as I think it would break the guidelines of the forum but there is a link to the story underneath for those curious.

    http://uk.gamespot.com/news/hitman-facebook-game-killed-after-controversy-6401019

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    Comment number 15.

    Though this is tasteless, I've heard of much worse. At the video games conference E3, games companies will actually bribe hotel owners to give them access to journalists' rooms during the conference. One writer reported coming back to his room to find a blood stain and chalk outline on his floor! For the recent game Dead Island Riptide, promoters sent out a bust of a woman's torso, with bloody stumps where her arms and head should be, but her bikini and large bosom completely intact. Urgh.

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    Comment number 16.

    I'm just shocked that Mark doesn't "particularly like" Once Upon a Time in America!

    Have you seen the 3 hour 50 minute version as Leone intended?

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    Comment number 17.

    Y'know I don't think this whole thing is nearly as bad as people think it is. As far as I know, Nathan Todd, the director of Belfast Story, is Northern Irish. That gives him a completely different perspective on the history of Northern Ireland than any of us slobs here on the the rest of the UK. Had a English director made this move, they would be complete uproar. As it stands, Nathan Todd is so far coming off as someone who wants to make a genuine stand about Northern Ireland, much like those great punks Stiff Little Fingers. And here we are, in complete moral indignation that our self-dignity has been affronted by his actions, based on a history and culture that is not ours. To put it in my own context, I am a Serb who has migrated to Wales. I consider myself both Welsh and Serbian, but when it comes to ethnic tensions in the former Yugoslavia, of which there are many, and which aren't all that disimilar to Northern Ireland, I would much rather have a Croatian, a Bosnian or a Serb teach me about my history than a Briton, for the simple fact that those folks have been there and lived through it. If they have to say some things that make others feel uncomfortable, then let them, for they've probably been in far worse positions themselves. Actual reconciliation isn't about moral indignation. It's about listening to everyone and trying to be as understanding as possible. All the moral indignation in the world won't change the history of Ireland, and neither will it help towards reconciliation and peace.

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    Comment number 18.

    There's a stark difference between edgy and offensive. I suspect this does rather fall on the latter, primarily because it's clearly quite cynical. By looking cynical and like the brain child of an American who frankly has nothing to do with Nothern Ireland (and presumably couldn't find Northern Ireland on a map of Northern Ireland), it just looks crass and tasteless.

    A few days ago I was discussing "Punk Sensibilities" with someone in regards to Tarantino vs Suda51 (Movies vs Games, but same ballpark). And I think after arguing for a while we both came to the conclusion that punk largely only works when it is very much outside the boardroom, on the streets as it were trying to beat the door down. Once you get those same punk rebels in the boardroom, their punk aesthetics and rebellious sensibilities begin to fall a little flat; there's nothing rebellious or punk about it. It's accepted, they're in the boardroom and they're making a truckload of money from it. The heart of punk lies in it staying outside the mainstream. If this was a smaller indie sort of thing you'd shrug and go, "Meh." At least, I'd like to think so. Misjudged but nothing worth losing sleep over.

    But this is a bigger-budget movie with Hollywood talent in it. And that changes the dynamic of these things considerably. There's a point where a guy in a suit trying to be "down wit' da kidz!" is just embarrassing and stupid and not worth the effort. Or like EA saying "We don't have a Microsoft bias! Honest!", whilst taking heaploads of money to ensure exclusive deals. There's a point where it's not acceptable for a bigger player to try the underhand tactics, or play the sympathy response. It doesn't wash.

    It''s a double standard but I for one think there's a real validity in it. There's a cut off point; a stage where this sort of thing really does drop off, and you wonder if they're really paying anyone to think about these things.

    Subversion only tends to work when you have something to subvert. As a gamer, the only reference I have is Nintendo. Gamecube was a massive sales flop (22 million over six years vs PS2 at 110 million). Nintendo had a market to subvert with the Wii, and it worked. They made a killing.

    The new Wii U? Tried to subvert the market again. But when you're top of the pile, you only end up subverting yourself, which is really rather stupid...

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    Comment number 19.

    "I hope A Belfast Story makes less money than Dyer's Pimp."

    He prefers to be called his agent. But with such a Dyer box office trajectory, and Danny's inevitable career change...

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    Comment number 20.

    I will leave the political discussions to those more qualified to speak about them but from the perspective of it being a press kit... I dunno, it is a press kit - it's advertising, it's all cynicism (not that that absolves it at all) but it also depends on the tone of the film. If the film is a sensationalist bit of exploitation like the more political spaghetti westerns then fair enough, I guess, that's entirely to be expected. If, however, it's a downbeat slice of social realism then nail bombs and a balaclava are pretty stupid ideas because you're putting people on the wrong foot for the end result. That's my feeling at least.

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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