The demon prankster of Fleet Street
That's the focus of One Rogue Reporter, a quick 62-minute documentary of sorts from Rich Peppiatt (aided by editor and co-director Tom Jenkinson.) Peppiatt was, at one time, one of the bad guys, working on over-the-top stories for The Daily Star, which led him to, among other things, dress like a woman and as Santa Claus. However, his paper's increasingly anti-Muslim bent (not unusual amongst British tabloids) drove him to resign, and he took up a different profession: comedy. However, his act is a pointed one, as he uses pranks to illustrate the hypocrisy and flat-out lies of those in charge of the British press--pranks collected in this film.
Certainly, if you know the players, the film means a bit more, but the analogues to American media are there and it's not so foreign that it's not easy to catch on. Awful people treat people awfully, then lie about it. It's a universal story. There's just not always Peppiatt there to try and call out those awful people, as he does here, armed with dildos, massive projected porn films, illicit text messages and security footage of media members being naughty. Because most Americans won't know about a Martin Clark or a Paul Dacre, the film is enlightening, introducing audiences to ready-made villains and watching them get some small measure of comeuppance.
Peppiatt (who looks a bit like a British Seth MacFarlane) is a cheeky fellow, who obviously enjoys tweaking those who abuse their power, and his personality goes a long way toward powering this short film, which combines the pranks (presented in handy, almost Kill Bill-like chapters) with interviews featuring people in and around British media, including actors Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan, creating a well-paced, stylish course in the recent history of British tabloids. (The use of clips from a number of films about newspapers is a nice touch as well.) Even for someone who has some understanding of this corner of the journalistic universe, there was plenty that was educational, while always being entertaining.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track here is enough for this documentary, ensuring that all voices are clearly heard and they enjoy proper separation from the occasional music (which is strong and stands on its own.) The mix is center-balanced, with nothing notably dynamic.
A 15:20 Q&A from a 2014 London screening features Peppiatt, Grant, Nick Davies and Kate Smurthwaite, and is one of the more thoughtful and insightful such exchanges, as the participants ruminate on the nature of the press and the idea of freedom of the press. It's an excellent, if too-short complement to the main feature.
Also included in the film's enticing 1:59 trailer.
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