Nothing So Strange, a mock documentary that depicts software king Bill Gates being assassinated, will have its West Coast premiere, February 12th at The San Francisco IndieFest.
The film premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City last January and has gone on to screen at several major film festivals. At the Newport Film Festival Nothing So Strange won the New York Times Claiborne Pell Award for Original Vision, one of the fest circuit’s most prestigious awards. However, the Seattle Film Festival, of which Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is a sponsor, refused to show the film.
But the San Francisco screening is the first time that the grisly Gates killing will flicker across a screen anywhere close to the technological industry. The movie’s director, Brian Flemming, who is Enemy #1 on many pro-Microsoft message boards, says the decision to go to San Francisco for the film’s West Coast premiere wasn’t meant to be deliberately provocative.
“I hope people in the area, especially those in the tech industry who may think this film is meant to insult Bill Gates, will come and see that it is something else entirely,” said Flemming, who also co-wrote the Off-Broadway hit “Bat Boy: The Musical.” “The film is a social commentary about class and race, and the plot is focused on a grass-roots investigation into the Gates murder. Gates haters–and I am not one–will be disappointed if they’re coming to see some cheap shot at the man. It doesn’t dwell on one sensational element.”
For his part, Bill Gates wishes that element didn’t exist at all. When news of Nothing So Strange first surfaced, Gates said through a spokesman, “It is very disappointing that a moviemaker would do something like this.” Since then, Microsoft has been silent about the film, and some Microsoft employees say that Gates sent out a “no-comment” order company-wide, in order not to help the film gain any more publicity.
But to Gates’ probable dismay, over the past year, following a scoop by the Drudge Report, the film has been reported on by Fox News, CNN, Time, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and even Gates’ hometown paper, the Seattle Times, where the story made the front page with the headline, “Gates Shot! But Don’t Worry, It’s Only a Movie.”
Nothing So Strange has also developed a bizarre and thriving “universe” on the World Wide Web, where more than two dozen sites take the Gates assassination as real. The filmmakers created some of the sites, such as one called citizensfortruth.org that is filled with reams of detailed “evidence,” but others have sprung up spontaneously as the film’s fan culture gets into the act. There is, of course, a Gates Memorial Web Ring–a collection of sites that fondly remember the great software pioneer. Haxan Films, the makers of The Blair Witch Project, had a hand in designing the original websites.
But Gates can take solace in one fact: The film does not have a distribution deal, and, with the exception of occasional film festivals, will not be coming to a theater or even a video store near you…yet.
“We’re in perpetual limbo on that issue,” says Flemming. “Independent films often have to prove themselves on the festival circuit before they get distribution. And, since we’ve done that, and we still don’t have a deal, it doesn’t look good for conventional distribution. We almost had a deal with one really great company, which was extremely interested in picking up the film, but then it turned out one of the higher-ups at the company was getting into business with Microsoft, so there was no way it could happen. That was very disappointing.”
The filmmakers may resort to distributing the $200K-budgeted film themselves. Flemming recently put a notice on the film’s website, nothingsostrange.com, asking for anyone with a theater to give him a call. He says he has interest from “a few cinema cafe-type places and a couple independent art houses.”
Some observers wonder if Gates will sue the filmmakers if the project continues to gain momentum. For his part, Flemming says he isn’t worried. “I don’t know what he would sue over. That he doesn’t like the film? It portrays him being shot as he gives money away to a charity, so it’s not like he’s presented in a bad light.”
Check it out for yourself at the Nothing So Strange website.