The British film, A Royal Hangover, opened the Cape Town Recovery Film Festival on 24 September. Described as ‘Think Bowling for Columbine, only with alcohol instead of guns. Drinking for Britain: We don’t shoot ourselves to death here, we kill ourselves with drink – much more dignified!’ and ‘A powerful film which could save lives if we can only get it in front of the right audience’.
Janet Gourand, Founder of World Without Wine (www.worldwithoutwine.com) interviews talented young British Director Arthur Cauty – seen below with one of the film’s stars, Russell Brand.
Why did you make ‘A Royal Hangover’?
British drinking culture is something I’ve always found fascinating and slightly bizarre. It’s all around you, wherever you look. It’s completely embedded in our culture, in our history, our politics. Some of our most popular TV shows are based around pubs, and then there’s religious ceremonies, the 18th birthday, weddings, all these key life events, marked with alcohol. It’s like the blood in our veins; it oils society and lubricates us socially.
That idea was always floating around, somewhere, in the back of my head, but it wasn’t until I started travelling around Europe, the USA, and Asia that I realised how strikingly different our drinking culture is in Britain. I started looking into it further and it became immediately apparent that we have a serious problem with alcohol in the UK – a problem that nobody seems to want to acknowledge or do anything about
What were the biggest challenges to making this film?
There was the obvious threat of violence while filming on the streets at night. There was one night in particular where different people attacked me on about five separate occasions. I did nothing to provoke any of these people, they just for some reason took offense to what I was doing, and being tanked up on alcohol, thought the best way to deal with the situation would be to “smash my fucking head in”.
I quickly learned that there is no reasoning with people when they are in such a state, so my response was generally just to keep filming. That way, if they do attempt any “head smashing”, I should at least get some footage gold. Fortunately for my facial features, when people are this intoxicated, it isn’t too difficult to avoid their wildly swinging right hooks.
So far, the film has been available on iTunes and is doing the international Film Festival circuit. What kind of feedback are your getting?
The film has been received very well by those who have seen it. The problem for us has been getting the film seen. For example, we’ve had cinemas refuse to show it due to the fact that they sell alcohol and obviously A Royal Hangover is not exactly an advert for alcohol consumption.
Aside from the political difficulties, we’ve been fortunate enough to be selected for some very respected film festivals, such as the Cleveland International Film Festival, which was actually voted the USA’s 2nd best film festival by USA Today. We’ve had brilliant reviews from the likes of the Huffington Post and tons of support from recovery communities, councils, charities and authorities.
Interestingly, countries like America and Australia have been far more receptive to the film than the UK. Perhaps it hits a little too close to home for us Brits.
Did you envisage getting a lot of interest from the “recovery” communities when you decided to make the film?
I did, to a degree, but we’ve had an overwhelming level of support from recovery communities, which I really wasn’t expecting. When I started production I was completely unaware of the sheer number of people either suffering from addiction, or recovering from addiction. It just makes it all the more strange that A Royal Hangover is the first film to properly address these issues.
Why Cape Town? Were you approached by film festival organisers?
Yes, we were approached by Dougie Dudgeon, the Festival Director, who was really keen to show the film. In fact, he wanted to show it at last year’s festival, but we had to wait until after our Los Angeles premiere to be able to do that. So, here we are, one year later
Is the film going on general release in the UK?
Well, as you mentioned, A Royal Hangover is currently available to both rent and buy from platforms such as iTunes and Vimeo on Demand, as well as through our distributor Journeyman Pictures, who are approaching broadcasters like Netflix and other buyers. We’ve signed a number of deals already. The best way to keep up-to-date with these things is to like the Facebook page or follow us on Twitter!
I felt your presence in the film was one of a ‘bemused anthropologist’. Do you feel you have a role to play in using your film for social change or are you already working on your next project?
That’s exactly how I felt! I’ve alwats consciously refrained from narrating my films in the past; instead, carving a narrative through interviews and archive etc, but with A Royal Hangover, I knew my presence was absolutely paramount to the premise of the film.
I’ve had people reach out to me after watching the film, telling me it’s changed how they see alcohol. It’s made them question their own drinking habits or even stop drinking altogether in some cases. It’s an extremely confronting film and I’d like to think that if we can get the film in front of the right people, we’ll be one step closer to seeing some changed implemented in our drug and alcohol policies, as well as the way we as a society regard addicts.
I am indeed hard at work on my next projects now, most of which are still very hush hush at this stage, but I’m still pushing A Royal Hangover out there in any way I can.
At the end of the film you say, “What is it going to take for Britain to admit it has an alcohol problem?” What is your answer to that question?
I wish I knew. I have absolutely no idea what it’s going to take. To me, the problem has always been obvious, but of course I’ve always been on the outside, looking in. My goal was to open people’s eyes to this problem and pose some crucial questions about our culture. The questioning was the easy part. Answering those questions is where the difficulty lies.
World Without Wine is a social network that enables men and women to successfully moderate their drinking and become sober by developing tools to support their journey to sobriety. Workshops, sobriety coaching and support groups all work together to provide the encouragement needed.