Tuesday night, Rich Peppiatt, former reporter for the Daily Star honoured the Electric Cinema of his presence whilst his first ever movie ‘One Rogue Reporter‘ was screened the day of its national release. The film was co-directed with Tom Jenkinson and appears to be some sort of DIY compilation of archived images, pranking footages and interviews with contemporary figures of the British media landscape, including Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan, Owen Jones, Joan Smith and John Bishop.
On his website, Peppiatt describes himself as a “writer, filmmaker, journalist and comedian.” A writer and journalist he was, in the days he had to write what he calls ‘anti-muslim propaganda’ and ‘fit facts into stories’; a comedian, he certainly his, and the humorous approach he used in the movie has often been welcome by laughter from members of the audience; as to being a filmmaker, one just needs to seat in front of a screen and watch the 61 minutes of journalistic satyre he has just directed to be convinced that he definitely is. Just as a background fact, ‘One Rogue Reporter‘ was part of the official selection of this year’s Sheffield Documentary and East End Film Festivals. If that is not enough, the mighty John Cleese has even dubbed the film as “Hilarious” adding that he “highly recommends“.
‘One Rogue Reporter‘ explores the issues that journalism – tabloid journalism in particular – is facing nowadays. Amongst the problems brought up: an ideology based on ‘exposing and selling’ rather than telling the truth, newspapers acting as conservative propaganda and the lack of care or compassion towards potential victims of press casualties. The film is structured around seven chapters autobiographically inspired, introduced by a typewriter and all beginning with images of some of Hollywood’s biggest classics by Billy Wilder or Samuel Fuller.
The film’s first minutes see newly made freelance reporter Rich reflecting on his achievement at the Daily Star: hanging around prostitutes, dressing up as a transvestite, Santa Claus or wearing a burqa: nothing to be proud of really. He eventually justifies the reason why he chose to quit a job he had only taken because he needed to pay off his bills – and his student loan.
A cheaply disguised Rich with grey hair announcing to the camera he is going to interview ‘the most hated man in Britain‘. With this evocation, the figures of Piers Morgan or Jeremy Kyle could pop up in one’s head – and Rich actually walks past the Emirates Stadium, wrongly confirming these suspicions. However, it is not till the final chapter that will be revealed the identity of the chosen one: Kelvin Mackenzie former editor of tabloid The Sun. For those too young to be familiar with Mackenzie, he published an article called ‘The Truth‘ in his newspaper in April 1989 following the Hillsborough disaster where 96 Liverpool fans perished when bleachers crushed. In the piece, it was said some Nottingham Forrest fans took advantage of the situation to pick-pocket corpses also going as far as to “urinate on brave cops“. This cruel lack of subtlety partly explains the hatred Mackenzie is still victim of, even today.
In his interview, where he pretends to be working with a Canadian TV documentary, cheeky Rich is going to ask personal questions – hidden behind an innocent unawareness – relating directly to Mackenzie’s life. What is joyful and brings laughter in the audience is the awkwardness in which Mackenzie gets bogged down as he tries answering the questions with hidden shame before he eventually realises he his an utter fool – and as being taken as such.
‘One Rogue Reporter‘ also pranks famous tabloid figures, notably Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre whose qualities are highlighted when he is wonderfully described by The Guardian journalist Owen Jones as the “Worst human being in the world“. However, Rich would rather help than demonise Dacre, seeing “a man in need“; follows an hilarious conversation with Dacre’s gruff security guard around a dildo on a step door and a special midnight
ejacul… projection over the front building of the Mail‘s bureaus. Amongst other targets of Peppiatt’s ruthless vendetta and investigation “weasel-faced” and former News Of The World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck who bares it all for the (hidden) camera and Daily Express‘ editor Hugh Whittow whose car ends up plastered with newspapers display Madeleine McCann case related headlines.
The film is quit populist and Peppiatt is probably the first one to recognise it, essentially because it can be seen on two different levels: firstly a comedy set in the journalistic world and secondly an in-depth criticism of problems surrounding Fleet Street. The issues raised are embedded in a context of cases that shook Britian such as the phone hacking scandal, the Leveson inquiry and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
To sum it up, ‘One Rogue Reporter‘ is a clever satyre, a witty comedy and a serious film that raises more question than it answers.
Brilliant in every ways. To enjoy without moderation.