Another Eid, another batch of ‘Eid releases’ — new films released strategically to coincide with the holiday season. So far, so good… except for the recent and rather disturbing trend of misleading ‘reviews’ and ‘news’ to do with new films.
I recently went to see a much-hyped film which I thought would be good fun. But it turned out to be exhausting and tedious: three hours long (three hours of my life that I will never get back), it was a seemingly unending sequence of chase scenes punctuated by occasional cuteness, sporadic humour and a plethora of desi villains and white foreigners in picturesque locales.
This same chase-packed, video game type formula film was announced to be a huge commercial success with news bulletins repeatedly telling us how it was breaking all box office records. Except that those particular news bulletins were nearly all on the same channel which had produced the film…
A different channel made a similarly hyped film earlier this year which was given extensive coverage and glowing reviews in the English language newspaper linked to that particular news organisation. An extended review in the weekend section seemed to suggest this film was somehow significant and worthwhile. I haven’t seen the film in question but I have yet to meet one person who saw it and was favourably impressed. Nearly everybody I spoke to has rubbished it.
So why is this an issue? Why shouldn’t production houses promote their films through parts of their own organisations? Well, mainly because if you use your news bulletins and newspapers to advertise products, this is dishonest journalism, in fact it’s not really journalism at all. And obviously it shakes our faith in both reviewers and editors, the people you generally rely on to bring you a critical and honest assessment of new productions.
Moreover, it creates a situation where films not produced by tv channel linked production houses are at a severe disadvantage as they do not have a 24 hour news machine informing viewers in insidious fashion how wonderful and successful such-and-such a film is despite the fact that it might actually be quite dreadful.
I was talking to a writer friend of mine about this and he chuckled and said, “Oh no! Now there’s even corruption in cultural journalism!”.
There is a humorous element to this I suppose but actually I find this rather disturbing: a case of journalistic objectivity being undermined by blatantly commercial motives.
Yes, I understand there is subjectivity involved in nearly every review as a reviewer brings his or her own biases and experiences to the assessment of a creative work, however, this trend of advertising in the guise of news is a ‘con job’. In actual fact it often ‘tricks’ viewers into buying (quite pricey) tickets.
The resurgence of Pakistani films has been wonderful, but now this all seems to be collapsing into a heap of burnout, spin and false advertising. We see good actors in a film trailer and we think that should be a good film, and it turns out to be unwatchable nonsense produced by some rich twit (in collaboration with a tv channel) who put himself in the starring role and had the channel publicise it for him.
My friend and I had to walk out of just such a film in a London cinema. So awful was it. We were also the only two people in that particular screen but we’d thought, we should support Pakistani films.
Well we should, but then the industry and the producers of news shouldn’t lie to us.
As they say in the capitalist model: caveat emptor or ‘buyer beware’.
You have been warned…