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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 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 24.

    Morally bankrupt advertising that has nothing intelligent to say about the Troubles. I'm just glad the marketing company responsible are not promoting a documentary about the Sarin gas attack in Tokyo...

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    Comment number 25.

    Are there extras offered with film releases as well? When the new Star Wars comes out will its "collector's edition" blu-ray come with a lightsaber? Will the inevitable 12-disc Hobbit trilogy also come with a hand-crafted copy of Bilbo's sword?

    What interested me about this blog was the fact that in the world of video games such freebies are given not just to critics, but there are also goodies offered for players that buy "special editions" of games.

    As with film, there have been a number of controversies around these give-aways. The one that most readily comes to mind was the promotional material for the zombie survival game "Dead Island: Riptide" which came with a voluptuous and bloodily dismembered torso. Needless to say, this was seen as objectionable.

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    Comment number 42.

    I work in the marketing department for a popular film channel. We are always sending press kits out with media goodies and spend hours thinking about what to put in them and we're always very careful; there's a delicate balance that has to be stuck between the intent to be original and/or shocking so that you stay in the journalist's mind (and get the PR coverage which is the whole point) and good taste. This example has obviously gone too far in the former direction.

    It should be noted however, that even thought the director made a statement it's very unlikely he or any of the filmmakers themselves had anything to do with the media kit or its conception. Unless you're Nolan or Spielberg you rarely even get to sign-off on these things. So with all due respect to Mr Hewitt, I think threatening to not watch the movie is a bit unfair - judge it on its own merits.

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    Comment number 45.

    @34; Don't forget the zombie torso of Dead Island: Riptide. That raised more than a few quizzical eyebrows; a modelled rendition of a "severed" female zombie torso replete in bikini. Or the duffel bag/safety deposit box of GTAIV's collector's edition - not just borderline, but cheaply made too, and can be prised open with a butter knife.

    Or there was the PC game a Vampyre Story, where a "select" group of journalists were sent in the post... a bulb of garlic. Then there was the realistic severed-finger sent as a promo before the release of Clive Barker's Jericho by Clive Barker.

    From Pisswasser beer (GTA4 release party) to Toilet Paper (Suda51's No More Heroes), video games really do have this stupid tat down to an absolute art. I mean, the promo here for A Belfast Story is tasteless and yeah, it does fall very flat. If there's one thing it does, is that it belittles the historical importance of things - and were I from Belfast, I'm not sure that's how I'd like a film bearing my homes name to be promoted. But compared to what video games do on a regular basis, this is a piddling little anomaly and nothing more.

    I don't expect it to get any better any time soon either. Games companies have been trying to outdo each other on the low-set bar for a while now. But really, as has been said, the reason to do this isn't for gamers; nor is this promo designed for movie critics. The point is, that it'll be picked up on by the mainstream media and there'll be a big fuss over it. Which effectively equates to publicity. And hey; it's worth it, as long as it works, no?

    The only way to really stop this sort of madness is really to ignore the desperate attempts for publicity that are these kinds of stunts. But that would take a complete overhaul of the media to start with, and sadly I'm not entirely sure that's even possible any more. If someone is desperately looking for attention, the one thing you probably shouldn't do is give it to them...


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