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Berlinale: Q&A with Kristoffer Borgli, Director of SXSW-Bound ‘Drib’

Variety logo Variety 2/11/2017 Elsa Keslassy
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BERLIN– “Drib,” Kristoffer Borgli’s stylish, comedy-filled feature set to world premiere at SXSW, is a hot title on TrustNordisk’s EFM slate. Weaving fiction and documentary, the pic turns on Amir Asgharnejad, an Oslo-based comedian and prankster who almost became the face of an energy drink.

Shot in Oslo and Los Angeles with Brett Gelman (“Joshy”), Adam Pearson (“Under the Skin”), “Drib” marks the feature debut of Borgli, a Norwegian filmmaker who gained critical acclaim with his short “Whateverest.” Ahead of SXSW, Borgli spoke to Variety about the themes at stake in “Drib,” from media manipulation and to the art business.

Variety : What made you want to tell the story of your friend Amir Asgharnejad?

When real life serves you up a story this good you sort of have to.

How relevant do you think this story is in today’s world?

Media manipulation, rage profiteering and trolling felt like a niche interest at the time of writing, but definitely has forced itself in to the mainstream the last year alone, so I would say extremely relevant in todays world.

Why was it important for you to include real footage of Amir in the film?

Are you thinking of the archival stuff? Instead of dramatizing the backstory, it felt both easier and more true to the nature of the project to include actual news footage from Amir’s appearances in the news. You can google a lot of the events that takes place in the film and see the footage – the film is in a lot of ways appropriation of real life and real people.

What kind of legal challenges did you face to make “Drib”?

Information wants to be free, that’s why we have NDA’s. We ended up changing so much factual information, from brand names to «sensitive» information about people and places that I can’t differentiate between the facts and the fiction any longer.

What are you denouncing in “Drib”? Do you think the same story would have happened elsewhere?

To some extent the film tracks how something culturally new and different gets absorbed, branded and turned in to commerce; and how fast that happens now. It’s not exclusive to advertising, TV networks, film studios or publishing houses all search for the next cool thing. Elaborate pranking/trolling, like that of Orson Welles or Andy Kaufman, can be seen as a sort of revenge for that.

The film is very stylized. What is the idea behind this visual style?

We follow an advertising process, and the visual aspect are often set by their premises; flashy and stylized by manipulative or even just shallow motives – and I loved shooting heavily lit studio product shots, or close ups of a “Drib” jacket in slow motion.

What’s the common thread between your short “Whateverest” and “Drib”?

I guess a key commonality with “Whateverest” and “Drib” is that I appropriate the personality and life of a person close to me, and turn them into my film characters, only changing certain things.

What do you want to direct next? Another English-language movie or a more local story?

I want to keep telling personal stories, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be local. Serialized formats are interesting too!

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