Hot Docs, North America's biggest documentary film festival, kicks off its 2011 run today in Toronto. Jam-packed with documentaries running through May 8, Moviefone Canada will be there from start to finish, offering up looks at some of the festival's noted films.
A movie about selling ad-space within a movie seems like a curious and potentially boring premise. But it's brought to life thanks to the hilarious personality and ambitious creativity of Morgan Spurlock, the man who brought us the experimental McDonald's doc 'Super Size Me.'
The sensational documentary filmmaker is back, and this time, with 'POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,' he wants to play in the vast and cash-flush sandbox of advertising. More specifically, he wants to sell product placement spots in his 90-minute feature film.
The art of co-promotion being used to get a film off the ground is explored to the point of absurdity and alarm in this commerce adventure, and Spurlock comes at the project with both humility and confidence.
The doc starts with what you might expect: failure. It seems most of the ad execs who give him a meeting (usually on their lunch hours, from the looks of it) are suspicious of what Spurlock is up to. The idea of making a movie about product placement by using money made from product placement is too meta for the safe-betting Madison Avenue types.
After some work with lawyers, a few favors from big thinker Richard Kirshenbaum, and the first sale to Ban bath products, things start to get interesting. For one, the title sponsor POM Wonderful comes on board. Lynn Resnick looks every part the unsure guinea pig when Spurlock first asks her team at POM Wonderful to be his sugar mama. While the title of this film gives away the outcome, it is a blast to see the entrepreneurial spirit of Spurlock at work.
Enter the cautionary figures of Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. While both men are having fun as Spurlock tempts them with sips of pomegranate juice and points out his brand new Merrell Shoes (a sponsor), they remind him that this farcical project could end up with corporate mega-brands using him, rather than the other way around. This is about as high as the drama reaches in 'Greatest Movie Ever Sold,' but the point comes across when Spurlock runs into some frustrating demands from his sponsors.
'Greatest Movie Ever Sold' builds before your eyes. When word gets out that a few brave brands have rolled the dice with the mischievous documentarian, the calls start coming in. Is the idea still pure? Or is the joke now on him? While dealing with his own troubles, Spurlock takes a few side trips to speak with other pillars of business and public life that are struggling with an ad-heavy world. Musicians, public school trustees, and even Donald Trump weigh in on the current state of brands and billboards.
One thing is for sure: This is not the serious tome that is Naomi Klein's 'No Logo.' Here Spurlock is fully engaged with brand partners, has corporate commitments, and while he is pouring hot sauce all over the big enchilada, he slowly transforms into an ingredient himself.
Thursday, April 28 – 6:30PM – Winter Garden Theatre
Friday, April 29 – 4:15PM – Isabel Bader Theatre
For complete schedule and movie listings, visit the Hot Docs website.