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Sunday
May082016

No UK premiere (yet) for A Billion Lives. Why not?

I've been a bit unkind about the 'pro-vaping' documentary A Billion Lives.

I respect the passion and commitment of director Aaron Biebert but I'm uncomfortable with the way the film is being promoted.

The trailer was a classic example. I won't repeat my objections – you can read them here. Dick Puddlecote had similar reservations.

Perhaps this is what you have to do to get an independent documentary noticed but I much prefer the more nuanced approach of documentary makers like Louis Theroux that leave viewers to make up their own minds.

In contrast the Michael Moore style of film-making leaves me cold. I suspect it's also counter-productive, polarising rather than changing people's opinions.

Anyway I'm not going to judge A Billion Lives until I've seen it. And that's the point of this post. As things stand I may have to wait until it comes out later in the year on DVD. And here's why.

The "world premiere" takes place this Wednesday (May 11) at the DocEdge film festival in New Zealand. So far (literally) so good.

However, according to an email sent out by the producers last Thursday, there won't be a European premiere until mid June and it's not going to be at a film festival nor will it be a standalone event in a major European city like London, Paris or Berlin.

Instead the European premiere of A Billion Lives will take place in Warsaw as part of the Global Forum on Nicotine conference and the audience will be predominantly vaping activists and "pro-vaping" public health campaigners.

Apparently the film includes "many speakers and participants at last year's conference" which is one way to ensure a standing ovation but I'm not sure it lends itself to impartial reviews.

And after Warsaw? Here, in the words of director Aaron Biebert, is a worldwide guide to the current state of play:

United States: "We'll set a date in the US once we've figured out a way to pay for it."

Canada: "Same as above for the US."

Australia: "We are getting closer to a plan for a proper Australian Premiere in July."

Germany: "We have interest from several theaters and distributors. If we keep at this, there will be a wide release throughout all of Germany, possibly Austria and Switzerland too."

Norway: "Growing interest from movie distributors."

France: "We will have a premiere in France, a country that has been so wonderfully supportive." So supportive there is no mention of a date.

Sweden: Conversations are happening, apparently, and the director is "confident that the Swedish people will get a chance to see A Billion Lives."

Last but not least, here's what Biebert has to say about the good 'ole United Kingdom:

We'd really really really like to host a UK premiere soon. Our friends in Scotland did their best to bring the movie to a film festival in Edinburgh, but we just found out the festival wasn't interested in the topic.

Despite having several prominent UK thinkers in the movie, we are not seeing much other interest at this time from the UK. Hopefully that will change soon.

Seriously? No-one has offered to host or support a UK premiere?

I find this incredible and it's not the first time the thought has crossed my mind. Five weeks ago I wrote:

Curiously I've yet to see any mention of a UK premiere. There's been talk of a European premiere (in Paris?) and a special screening at the Global Nicotine Forum in Warsaw in June, but nothing to suggest a screening in dear old Blighty despite the fact that several Brits feature in the film.

Given the UK is arguably the most vaper-friendly anti-smoking country on earth I'm surprised no-one has yet booked a cinema in the West End for such an event. There are many auditoriums available for hire in London including some of the most famous commercial cinemas in Leicester Square.

They don't cost the earth either. I know because I once booked a cinema for a private screening and I've just checked the current prices. They're available from £100 an hour.

Look, if no-one else will do it and Aaron Biebert will work with us, perhaps Forest should host the UK premiere (subject to a few terms and conditions!).

It beggars belief that no-one in the UK vaping community (manufacturers, representative bodies, consumer groups) has stepped forward and offered to host or sponsor a premiere for this unique if possibly flawed documentary.

Compare this to Brexit: The Movie which, by coincidence, also has its premiere on Wednesday.

The premiere will be in London's Leicester Square. There will be a red carpet, paparazzi, flashing lights, celebrities, politicians, and members of the press.

Now that sounds like fun. With a bit of imagination and some financial support A Billion Lives could get the same treatment. It could and should be "an event".

I wish Aaron Biebert well with his film. Anyone who puts so much time and energy into a project like this deserves credit, even if there are concerns about the extent to which it will repeat public health propaganda about smoking while attacking the industry for not doing enough to embrace e-cigarettes.

The United Kingdom is possibly the most liberal country in the world when it comes to e-cigarettes. Time, I think, for the UK vaping 'family' to put its money where its mouth is. And if 'pro-vaping' sponsors won't step forward what about a crowd-funding initiative?

Come on, guys. Stop whinging about TPD and the new FDA regulations for a few days and give Aaron Biebert the support he's clearly crying out for.

Below: How to promote the premiere of a low budget campaign movie. The Brexit Movie premiere looks and feels like a proper cinematic event.

In contrast A Billion Lives ("People are going to die") hardly sounds like a fun night out. There are ways to sell a premiere to a wider audience and I'm not convinced this is one of them.

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Reader Comments (7)

If you fund that movie with it's billion lies about smoking and smokers clearly designed to bash us to win favour with all those enemies they are working with in public health against us, then Forest would lose my support and that of many other people.

It has been made very clear to us. Vapers like the film maker hate us and would do anything to lick the backside of public health thugs.

Make a new film with all the offensive stuff about smokers and smoking, based on the same junk science now targeting ecigs, taken out and that would be another matter - but would they do that? I doubt it but if not then don't touch this piece of smoker bashing propaganda with a bargepole.

Sunday, May 8, 2016 at 13:08 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Legal precedents have already established that health trumps human rights and probably all other laws. So 'public health' activists can make whatever claims they like, with impunity.

Forest does not share that immunity and so might well get prosecuted under anti-hate legislation if it promotes the 'billion lives' film.

I should point out that I have no intention of trying to do any such thing against Forest but I would certainly welcome prosecutions against other propagandists who peddle fear and hatred for a living.

Sunday, May 8, 2016 at 16:35 | Unregistered CommenterTony

I agree with Pat. The trailer for this film got me so incensed that I ceased being a 'vaping advocate'. If the film is anything like the trailer, no one of sound mind should put their hard earned cash into promoting it. Perhaps ASH will help Mr Biebert out ;)

Sunday, May 8, 2016 at 17:15 | Unregistered CommenterRussell VR Ord

Tony - Inciting hatred against any minority is illegal but positively welcomed against smokers - for our own good of course.

New Britain - all people are equal except some are more equal than others.

Monday, May 9, 2016 at 10:31 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Simon, I'm starting to like you. Thanks for all the advice and support.

I also wanted to clarify that the official announcement was this one, not your screenshot:

https://www.facebook.com/ABillionLives/photos/pb.166640443370251.-2207520000.1463222193./1136699009697718

You'll be happy to know that our sold out world premiere at the Oscar-qualifying DocEdge film festival was a great success:

https://www.facebook.com/ABillionLives/photos/pb.166640443370251.-2207520000.1463222193./1161737363860549

Seems like everyone had a fun night out. We were thrilled to see Sir Richard Taylor, politicians, athletes, doctors, and others join us. Check out our Facebook page to learn more about what the critics are saying now.

Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 11:51 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Biebert

Now the movie has had it's premiere, what do the people above have to say for themselves now?

What you read into that trailer is so far removed from what the film (and trailer) are even about. It's beyond ridiculous how you people came to such a conclusion. WAKE UP!!

Go read the reviews, of which I have yet to see a negative one, and have a good word with yourselves.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 0:32 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Thanks Steve and Aaron :-)
The other people here should be really ashamed of themselves, including the author of this (and the linked) article!

Help save #ABillionLives
Help get "A Billion Lives" screened in the UK too! :-)

Sunday, August 7, 2016 at 16:16 | Unregistered CommenterLiisaAusNorwegen

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