Starsuckers hits DVD

Tuesday, 11 May 2010 13:01

Some are calling it the most controversial film of the year, but in essence “Starsuckers” is in equal measure hilarious and shocking. For those of you obsessed with the concept of ‘celebrity’, this is a wake-up call as to why you are being conned by the modern-day equivalent of ‘bread and circuses’.

Director Chris Atkins was BAFTA-nominated for is previous film, “Taking Liberties” – a fact-driven revelation of how British citizens have unwittingly surrendered their freedom, walking like a somnambulist into a very real nightmare, for which George Orwell’s “1984” was the blueprint. To get the most from his new project, you have to appreciate that our surveillance state is but one facet of the command and control apparatus that has been set up around us. In “Starsuckers” you will see how people are distracted to looking in the wrong direction by inane, irrelevant, and in many cases untrue coverage of celebrities.

Starsuckers on DVD“Star Suckers” as front page news when it was revealed that Director Atkins had sold fake celebrity stories to all the tabloids – if your remember the story of Amy Winehouse’s hair catching fire, well, that was something manufactured by him (had you done so, you could have earned £600 for this morsel of nonsense!). You get to see how easy it is to place some piffle in gossip pages – and even get paid for the privilege!

Also on offer is the secret filming of tabloid journalists, in one case being tempted by the lure of celebrity medical records, the revelation of which is strictly off-limits according to the Press Complaints Commission. You can see that they consider a story is a story, and will try their best to find an angle that it’s all in ‘the public interest’ to reveal such personal information.

Another escapade sees ‘PR guru’ Max Clifford secretly filmed, boasting about his clients and their potentially damaging peccadilloes – luckily for the film, this was seen by the legal eagles as something that indeed WAS in the public interest, although the juicy names of those involved have been bleeped out. When Mr Clifford found out about this ‘sting’, he threatened to get a court order to shut down the film. In the end, he thought better of doing so, as it would actually have fuelled the controversy!

The most depressing aspect of the documentary is how so many parents will do absolutely anything to get fame for their offspring, including letting them take part in some incredibly suspect filming in completely bad taste. As Atkins notes about this section, filmed in the Luton shopping centre, he expected that his team would get lynched by any parent that cottoned on to what was going on.  Fortunately for them, not one of them did, which goes to show the desperation there is to be part of ‘celebrity culture’ (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms). Everyone wants a chance at their 15 minutes of fame, but is the price really worth paying?

It’s also good to see author and journalist Nick Davies get to be a ‘talking head’ within the documentary. His “Flat Earth News” book is a study of just why you can’t believe what you read in the papers, and is absolutely essential reading for everyone on the planet. It puts into perspective why news has been completely taken over by ‘PR’ and its sensibilities. The fact that all news media follow the adage that stories should be safe rather than controversial, and simple rather than complex in order for ‘punters’ to like them, really underlines the problem.  People aren’t as stupid as they are thought to be, but give them a path of least resistance and they will take it. ‘PR’, in essence, is inherently unreliable as a source of truth.

The grandstand finish for “Starsuckers” is provided by none other that Sir Bob Geldof’s Live Aid initiative. The film reveals the truth behind the “Live 8” concerts that took place in 2005, and that there were downsides as well as the much-publicised upsides to the movement. How many realise that the original Live Aid in 1985 was responsible for funding relocations of native populations by the Ethiopian Government to lands not suitable for mass colonisation?  Or, indeed, that the “Live 8” concert in 2005 distracted from a long-organised march by Make Poverty History – which almost completely disappeared from the news agenda due to the ‘celebrity fest’.

In fact, just before the television screening of an edited version of the film on the More4 channel on Tuesday 6 April, Sir Bob was offered the right of reply by the producers, as part of the OFCOM regulations surrounding such documentaries as this.  Director Chris Atkins received an 11 page personal letter from Geldof, which was supposed to remain confidential.  Unfortunately, the lawyers again viewed this reply as being in the public interest, and you can find the whole text at the Starsuckers website

In the end, we see that the reason that such pap and nonsense is allowed to permeate every pore of our society is because we let it! The powers-that-be make sure that this eye candy distracts the majority from what is really going on in the world, and that this manipulation is carefully planned and incredibly cynical. The ultimate irony can be seen on the front cover of the DVD – A rating of Four Stars from ‘Heat’ magazine!

Two years in the making, “Starsuckers” was released in British cinemas in November 2009 to critical acclaim. And now you can get hold of it on DVD, which includes over two hours of extra scenes, including interviews with the likes Kiera Knightley, Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, Ralph Fiennes, 50 Cent, Al Pacino, Eddie Izzard and many more. The audio commentary by Chris Atkins and producer Christina Slater gives you more food for thought, as does the accompanying companion booklet written by Chris.

Network Releasing are to be commended for expanding their portfolio and giving the DVD a home.  Chris Atkins is very pleased with the results, and realised early on that the subject matter would make it difficult to get any sort of release - so many of the potential companies who could take it on would have a problem with much of its content!

The fascinating and quite frankly uplifting element to this movie is that Director Atkins has given a load of talks at schools around the country, where teachers asked him to come along to screen the film and take questions.  This is the sort of cultural and media studies that the society of tomorrow need to be exposed to, and not the recent suggestion of preparing the entire population for auditioning for The X Factor! After all, the next generation is the key to where all this manipulation goes from hereon in, and they are going to have to wake up to the harsh realities if Earth is not going to become a Prison Planet!

As political theorist, and philosopher Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

“Starsuckers” has a ‘12’ certificate and a main feature running time of 101 minutes. It has a RRP of £14.99, or get it for less at

You can hear an exclusive podcast of a 25 minute interview with Director Chris Atkins over at our Cult TV Insider website.

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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