The self-styled pro-vaping, anti-corruption documentary A Billion Lives had its world premiere in New Zealand on Wednesday.
If I appear a little obsessed by this film it's because I am. I have a professional interest in the subject but I'm also drawn to independent projects like this.
The promotion of a small budget anti-establishment movie intrigues me and it was strangely exciting to follow director Aaron Biebert and his family and crew to Wellington and experience, even from a distance of 11,500 miles, the opening night on Periscope.
I'm such a stalker that I even watched, via Twitter, a clip of their plane landing in New Zealand.
Of course I have serious reservations about the film and while it would be unfair to leap to conclusions before I see it the first reviews confirm my fears.
Lavishing the film with praise, one reviewer described A Billion Lives as "like the Fahrenheit 9/11 of tobacco". That alone should set alarm bells ringing but consider this.
We were promised a film that would explore alleged corruption in government, public health and even the pharmaceutical industry. A Billion Lives may do all those things but here's what the first reviewers chose to highlight:
A second review headlined A Billion Lives has world premiere in New Zealand, revealing powerful forces aiding the tobacco industry appears to confirm that message:
Filmmaker Aaron Biebert ... journeyed to 13 countries on four continents to find similar patterns worldwide: here is a life-saving technology of e-cigarettes, but governments were banning them or fining citizens over their use, ignoring the science and deciding to be complicit with the tobacco industry in keeping people addicted to a harmful product.
Becky: Aaron is ... refreshingly Milwaukeean; sincere and doe-eyed. He seems naturally unrehearsed in his delivery, which I appreciated as a thinking and analytical person who is not receptive to preaching. I don’t want to be told what to think, and although he had a clear opinion, I did not feel any urgency from him to blindly agree with him. Instead, I saw him as a human being with an earnest interest in learning more.
Ryan: He’s real. Midwesterners are known to be welcoming and kind and he effuses those qualities.
Becky: He’s also super cute.
I wonder if they'll put that on the poster ... Better than "People are going to die".
PS. I've just noticed that director Aaron Biebert has commented on a previous post (No UK premiere for A Billion Lives (yet). Why not?)
Given this post it's only fair I include his comments here too:
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.
You'll be happy to know that our sold out world premiere at the Oscar-qualifying DocEdge film festival was a great success.
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.
Thanks, Aaron. I'm beginning to like you too. Jury is out on your film, though.