Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Surviving Georgia and the Case of the Four-Star Review that Never Was

It seems that once a month an Australian film comes along that goes so under the radar that you'd be forgiven for thinking it doesn't really exist without seeing it with your own eyes. I had heard about the production of Surviving Georgia, the first film by Sandra Sciberras since the small, but nice, Caterpillar Wish in 2006, but that was so long ago that I was instantly surprised to see it pop up on the local release schedule for next week (13 October). I haven't had the chance to see Surviving Georgia as I was busy at the time of the press screening, but those who have inform us that, well, it's not very good. Hardly surprising, but you never fully hope for a bad movie so it's a shame when one just lands with a thud. Especially when it features a cast like Pia Miranda, Caroline O'Connor and Shane Jacobson.

Still, get a release it shall (into 8 cinemas, more than some other more acclaimed films) and good on them for doing so. Just getting a film completed and out there is a win in this day and age, and if the cinematic release acts as nothing more than a token gesture before DVD (a much more forgiving arena for Australian films, I assume) then so be it. The film is being distributed, I believe, by the co-director (Kate Whitbread) and co-star/co-producer (Spencer McLaren), although I may be wrong on that detail, and a recently released trailer didn't exactly set the world on fire - two unrelated Twitter followers labelled it "abominable" within minutes of each other. Take a look for yourself and think "would I rather see this or A Heartbeat Away?" Hmmm, that's a tough one!


So far, so ordinary. It may look bad, but not offensive and barely worth a second glance. Sad, but true. Nevertheless, something about this trailer piqued my curiosity at the time (I saw it play before The Help and promptly forgot all about it), but it wasn't until I received an email from a "Jarrod Sturneiks" just yesterday that it really clicked. In between the many moments of inept acting displayed by star Holly Valance ("you've got to be bloody kidding me" is a snorter, that's for sure!), the dunderheaded title cards, grating budget music choices and the entire film being laid out in front of us, there is a moment of unexpected curiosity when a four star review from The Guardian is referenced.


Considering even Australian critics hadn't had much of an opportunity to see Surviving Georgia at the time, it was curious that this tiny Australian film starring Holly Valance (of all people) managed to secure a 4-star quote from a well-known source such as The Guardian website. Alas, what they have done is in fact used a user review posted by somebody on the film's default Guardian page. Looking at the website in question and it becomes quite clear, rather quickly, that this review by "Lutherfilm" is not an official review by any means and that the producers have misrepresented The Guardian as somehow endorsing Surviving Georgia.

How do they get away with it? The same star rating and quote is featured on the poster, too. One must assume that they figured their film is so small that nobody would really notice and that by not including the actual name of the person who wrote "...touches your heart and leaves you with a smile" they can feasibly get away with it. But, then again, that's like saying CNN endorses radical alternative therapies simply because they feature an interview with somebody who does. Who on Earth knows who this "Lutherfilm" person is, anyway. The comment was posted way back on 18 May, which is coincidental since the film's original release date, according to IMDb, was 29 May. This person's profile features no other activity; they may as well be a stock standard Anonymous and be done with it. There's even a typo in there to look unofficial.

It almost feels like I'm criticising a puppy for peeing on the carpet, but this sort of blatant false advertising does nobody any favours. Not the Surviving Georgia filmmakers, nor any other filmmakers who work hard and get their film out there just to see it fail. Australian films are currently doing quite well at the box office, what with Red Dog and The Eye of the Storm, but this much smaller film obviously didn't have the resources at their disposal, which is hardly their fault. Nevertheless, so much Australian film marketing is grass roots, especially for a film like this, and perhaps I was just looking in the wrong place, but I never heard a peep out of this film trying to get itself out there and raising its profile. If they thought slapping a fake quote on their dodgy trailer was going to cure their film's ills then they were sorely mistaken. If they don't even trust their own product then why should we? I like to try and see as many local films as possible, but for Surviving Georgia I'll make an exception. This one I'll skip.

10 comments:

Helen said...

I can't remember the movie, but I saw a DVD cover once that quoted a 5 star review from an IMdB user...

Mel said...

This is my favourite Oz film promo fail since Stone Bros.

filmblerg said...

Fascinating! I know Limelight PR were doing the publicity for this. I heard that they were having trouble working out how to market the film, but I had no idea levels like this were being reached!

Anonymous said...

A very well similarly written glowing review on IMDB too that seems to mention all the key players in this film and their relevant film backgrounds.

Looks like the user made an imdb account just to review the film too. He must have really loved it!

richardwatts said...

Filmblerg: I doubt the publicists were the ones who inserted this dubious quote into the trailer - that would have been the distributors or the filmmakers, most likely...

Anonymous said...

And you can review a film yourself not by actually seeing it, but by reading Twitter?? Amazing!!

Ernest Leigh said...

This makes my skin crawl!! And trying to trumpet THE GUARDIAN? They could've at least aimed a little lower...

The date of the user comment is what gets me... it's had no release in the UK and this was dated before it even screened at the Barbican Festival. Did they really think they'd get away with it?? Were they that desperate??

Also - the film is a stinker. Saw it last night and wanted to stab my eyes out.

Candice Camera said...

Also not mentioned in all of this is the fact that the film also received funds from Film Victoria, albeit in post. There should be greater accountability from government funding bodies when dealing with such unscrupulous operators as these.

Particularly as further to the obvious distortion mentioned in this article, there is the troubling attempt by those involved to spin the production into a feel-good story of low-budget-filmmakers-that-could. This notion is as cringe-worthy and manipulative as the film itself. It is widely known that they didn't pay a number of their crew (in some cases not even their petrol money to and from Warburton) instead condescending to them that they were providing 'invaluable experience' and an 'important feature credit'. What rot.

Every stage of this production - now down to this laughable attempt to deceive the cinema-going public - represents everything that is wrong with the industry in this country.

filmblerg said...

Yes, I imagine you're correct Richard. I would not want to be involved in this after this coming out!

BRENTON said...

Planned to miss this one as well! lol Glenn, have been waitng for your thoughts about 'The Eye of the Storm'? Going to catch 'The Hunter' next week.