The master of performance art, Andy Kaufman, made us question where reality ended and fiction began. His appearances on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and FRIDAYS captivated audiences who never knew what to expect and watched hoping to see him break the third wall. Even the manner in which he died seemed to be a prank. If any other vegetarian nonsmoker died of lung cancer we may not question it, but when Andy died in 1984 at the age of 35 everyone wondered if this was just another stunt. Over thirty-years after his death, comics and artists are still trying to be the next Andy Kaufman. Hell, there’s even an award named after him. After seeing the film DRIB at Fantasia Film Festival, I can confidently say Amir Asgharnejad is the only one who has ever come close to perfecting Kaufman’s style of showmanship.
The Iranian born Amir was raised in Norway. He first gained attention during the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 when he acted as a reporter from a Norwegian television station who was critical of Azerbaijan, the host country of the contest. Amir was detained at the airport by Azerbaijan authorities who then found his defaming reports on the internet. The incident led to several TV appearances on Norwegian Television, one of which he arrived at sporting a mustache in honor of his favorite comedian, Charlie Chaplin.
In 2014, he released a series of videos of him picking fights with strangers who then proceeded to beat the shit out of him, which was all chronicled in the short film INTERNET FAMOUS. And this is where the story of DRIB begins. Amir’s online fights drew over a million views as well as the attention of an energy drink company who did not give permission to have their name used and is therefore referred to as “Drib” in the film. The energy drink company, through their marketing firm, contacted Amir and flew him to Hollywood, California for what would be the greatest viral marketing campaign of all time. They wanted Amir to recreate his online stunts with actors, and once these videos were released, it would be revealed that they were all part of a marketing campaign for the energy drink company. But then the entire thing fell apart, the drink company abandoned the campaign, and Amir went back to Norway.
When Amir returned home, he sold his story to a production company that wanted to make a documentary film about his experience in Hollywood. There was only one catch: Amir wanted to play himself. What comes out of this is DRIB, a half documentary/half narrative reenactment all through the lens of Amir. This is where reality, narrative, and fourth walls start to get really blurry. Going back and forth between reality and a fictionalized retelling, Amir obliterates conventional storytelling as he contradicts the narrative portion and frequently breaks character on set. Everything about this film is unpredictable, and that’s what keeps you watching. You want to see what happens next because Amir has created a situation where anything could happen. Anything. Keep in mind, this is not JACKASS. It isn’t even close to JACKASS. Anyone who says it’s JACKASS, doesn’t know what they are talking about. This is audience manipulation at its finest. This is an artist who knows how to control everything. If Andy Kaufman were alive today, this is what he’d be doing.
The narrative, itself, is a modern day THE BIG PICTURE with a touch of the surreal. Director Kritoffer Borgli tells the behind-the-camera story of what working in Hollywood as an outsider is really like with an honesty that only comes from experience. Anyone who has worked in the industry has sat in on the same meetings and had the same conversations depicted in this film. This is Robert Altman’s THE PLAYER for a Hollywood obsessed with viral marketing and cashing in on internet fame.
Then at three in the morning in my Montreal hotel room I woke up. Was any of it real? The entire story is told through the lens of Amir Asgharnejad, an admittedly unreliable storyteller. Even his internet fight videos, which brought him so much attention, were fake. As real as they looked, he never picked fights with strangers; he was always going up against actors. As he put it himself, he did for internet videos what Andy Kaufman did for wrestling. Amir has already proven himself a master manipulator. Was he even hired by an energy drink company to come to Hollywood? Was it all fake- the energy drink company, the marketing firm, his adventures in Hollywood, was all of it just a story he made up in order to create this half documentary half narrative film? Maybe it’s all true, but the campaign was never canceled. It’s still going on and this film is a part of it. Did he already know I was going to write this review? Am I a part of this now? Is Amir Asgharnejad actually Keyser Soze?
My head full of conspiracy theories. I’ve turned off my cellphone, and I’m now hiding under my blanket listening for helicopters on the roof of my hotel. I don’t know what to believe anymore.
Regardless of fact of fiction, DRIB is definitely a film like no other. Amir and Kristopher have completely torn apart traditional filmmaking and reassembled it into a Kaufmanesque performance art the likes of which has never been done before. They’ve purposefully and recklessly put everything into question, and that is what makes DRIB perfect.
DRIB is currently in theaters in Norway, but still no word on a US release. Some say an unnamed marketing firm and energy drink company maybe standing in the way of its release. If you get a chance, and you’re looking to see something that will constantly surprise you as well as alter your concept of narrative structure, then I highly recommend you see DRIB, the film an unnamed energy drink company doesn’t want you to see. Check out the trailer below, and for more info on DRIB, keep checking Blumhouse.com.