WE’RE all used to a bit of product placement in today’s movie industry.
The latest mobile phone is pinned to the ear of an international spy. A popular brand of beer is gulped by an anti-hero. The latest sports car roars through a street chase.
This embedded marketing is as much a part of a trip to the cinema these days as overpriced sugary drinks and stale popcorn (also overpriced).
But a new feel-good movie from Australia, set in a small mining outpost, has eyebrows raised due to its substantial in-kind and financial support from the same said mining industry.
Red Dog, starring American Josh Lucas, is set in the 1970s in tiny Dampier in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region. The film is based on real life exploits of a stray dog which roamed the area, hitch-hiking between settlements and bringing people together as it traveled.
The characters, who work for Hamersley Iron (an actual company and wholly-owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto), are roguish and likeable. The cinematography sweeping across the red Pilbara landscape is momentous. Already the largest grossing Aussie-made film for 2011, Red Dog managed to take more than Hollywood blockbuster Cowboys & Aliens (Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig) in its opening weeks. Now a UK and US release are in the offing.
The film itself is well and truly focused on the exploits of the dog and is based on Louis de Bernières's depiction of the legend in his short novel Red Dog.
So who gave what to the film?