IFC Films hopes a political drama will catch on with late summer moviegoers.
Kiera Knightly stars in Official Secrets, out this week from IFC Films and based on a true story. Knightly stars in the story as Katharine Gun, a British government employee who, in 2003, finds proof intelligence is being manipulated by both the U.K. and U.S. as they seek to justify their plans for invading Iraq.
Understandably upset by what she’s found, she leaks the memo containing the evidence of the manipulation to the press because no one else seems to care. When she’s revealed as the leaker she’s charged under the Official Secrets Act. Determined she’s morally right and that the law is unjust, she’s aided in her fight by publisher Martin Bright (Matt Smith) and barrister Ben Emmerson (Ralph Fiennes).
Gun is at the front of her assembled team on the one-sheet, Bright and Emmerson flanking her in the background. All three look very serious as bold-faced copy placed over their faces tells us “Nothing is more dangerous than the truth.” Down below the title is the appeal that the movie is “Based on the untold true story.”
The first trailer (18,000 views on YouTube) was finally released in late June. It opens with Katherine in custody, about to be interrogated by very serious men about her activities monitoring communications for the British government. She comes across messages showing the U.K. and U.S. intelligence services have been engaging in espionage to ensure a United Nations vote endorsing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, information she leaks to the press. The repercussions of her actions are dire for herself and her husband, but she insists her loyalty is to the people, not the government, and so is willing to fight for what she feels is right and face the consequences.
Online and Social
You’ll just find the basic mix of a trailer, synopsis and the poster on the studio’s single page for the movie. This is one of those situations where some background on the events that inspired the story, or at least the book it’s based on, would have been welcome to help educate the audience a bit more.
Advertising and Publicity
Response to the movie’s screening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was mixed, but that didn’t stop IFC from quickly nabbing distribution rights. A couple months later it was announced it would also appear at April’s San Francisco Film Festival.
The studio has engaged in a strategy of aggressively releasing clips in order to show audiences more of what they can expect from the movie. “Loyalty” was given to The Playlist as an exclusive for that readership, showing Gun meeting Emmerson for the first time. “Breach” showed the day Gun’s supervisors discovered secrets had been leaked. Continuing that them, “Risk” has Gun meeting Bright for the first time as her trial starts.
Media and Publicity
A first look still from the movie was released at the same time as the Sundance announcement.
Just before release, an interview with Knightly had her talking about the story and the responsibility she felt when taking on the role and what she remembered from when the events depicted were taking place. Similar topics were covered in a video interview that came from IFC as a sort of EPK.
Gun herself was interviewed about the events of her life that are shown in the movie, at least those that she’s legally allowed to talk about.
This is a Very Serious Movie being sold by IFC, one that is meant to appear timely and important in our age when truth is relative and anyone who disagrees with certain political leaders is accused of being a disloyal socialist. It’s unlikely there will be an audience for it, not because of the story or theme but because it isn’t the kind of pure, nihilistic escapism audiences seem to be craving at this particular cultural moment.
The campaign is best summed up by a line given to Emmerson: “You chose loyalty to your country over loyalty to your government.” That’s the key to what’s being sold here, a reminder that government and country aren’t the same thing, despite the fact that those in power often attempt to conflate the two in the minds of the public. So the movie looks intriguing, one that doesn’t try to sensationalize the story but present it as soberly as possible and remind the audience that standing up for what’s right often isn’t safe.