The Fourth Kind… A film that turned into a con.

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The Fourth Kind” is an American science fiction horror film released in2009 by Universal studios in co-production with Gold Circle Films and Dead Crow Productions. It was written and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi who took the title from  the american professor and astronomer J. Allen Hynek, first to formally classify close encounters with aliens, being the fourth, alien abduction.

The thriller follows the investigation and documentation of psychologist Abigail Tyler, played by Milla Jovovich who travelled to Alaska and collected supposed evidence of alien abduction from different traumatized patients, who recalled similar details in their statements. She discovers and even experiences very troubling events… Fact or fiction? That is for the viewer to decide. Or not.

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The footage collected by Tyler could be based on real events that actually occurred in Alaska. The film itself does not admit if it is inspired by real facts or if on the other hand it is fictitious. However, the film producers created two fake websites that included references to the plot and characters depicted in the movie: “Alaska Psychiatry Journal” and “Alaska News Archive”. Here is where the ingenious lie started.

When the film came out, the fake websites started gaining thousands of visits and the articles they provided went viral. At first, the producers of the movie claimed to have no relation with them, however, as time went by, the plot was undone and they were the ones left to blame. The websites were closed, and Universal was sued by the Alaska Press Club, being forced to pay $20,000 to the institution; it was too late though; the film had reached great popularity and there were plenty of “believers” who defended the “veracity” of the stories collected in the movie.

There is no doubt that the hoax was successful. In this article published by Breeanna Hare in the CNN some days after the premiere there is a detailed description of the audience reaction to this and several other horror thrillers. It boosted the global popularity of the movie and therefore contributed to its total gross ($47 m), shown here. How did it decay then? Well, as all lies do. The key was in the details: doctors from psychiatric hospitals in Alaska denied the existence of Abigail Tyler or any similar reporter. Moreover,  it was found out that the webpages had been published just a month before the movie premiere.Presumably, if the producers had not mentioned components exclusive of the film, and focus deeper in the salienabductiontories depicted, their lie might have been more difficult to find and spread, but its veracity would be much more solid. For future filmmakers thinking of using a similar resource, it seems to be a good idea to start building the website long time befo
re starting working on the film.

Once having exposed the hoax, we must face its moral implications. The recreation and distortion of some cases of missing people in Nome, Alaska, upset the real families of the lost. Once versioning any kind of real event, and making this version viral, there is a process of trivialization of the original, true facts. It is complicated to deal with matters involving dramatic losses without hurting the feelings of the true characters of the story. Then again, we can not forget the effect this particular lie had on people. It was a sham, a farce that drew people’s attention, influenced their attitude towards the movie, and made them more susceptible to praise and spread the word about it. It is funny how we people tend to get attracted by the unknown, the uncertain. And it is scary how effective can this uncertainty be when used for hidden purposes.

Before you leave, do check this article by Los Angeles Times in 2005. Think about how you would feel after watching exactly what is described in these statements. Think about it and then consider the power and effectivity of deception.

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“Syrian hero boy rescues girl from shooting”

A viral video faking reality

On November 10th 2014, this one minute clip was uploaded on YouTube. The video showed a sniper shooting in a Syrian war zone. Suddenly, a boy who seems around 8 years old runs towards a destroyed car and he pretends to be dead for a few seconds until he gets up again and rescues a younger girl with whom he runs out of shot avoiding numerous bullets. A day later, with already 200 000 views, several news websites reported the event, such as The Telegraph,IndependentMetroDaily MailFox NewsThe Guardian. Most of them made clear that they could not verify it, but mention that according to experts there was no reason to doubt its legitimacy. Besides, some of those websites were speculating about the place were it had been filmed, suggesting the town of Yabroud, near the Lebanese border. By November 14th, the video had gone viral, reaching 5 million views. That same day,  an announcement from a Norwegian director came out on Twitter, claiming that the video had been faked:
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http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/22500 

 

migThe video had first been uploaded to a newly created YouTube account but barely received views. When they added the word “hero” to the title the channel “Shaam News Network”, which features mainly raw war footage from citizens in the Middle East,  reuploaded it and that was when it started generating a huge impact. The actual video is now unavailable since the authors made it private. Nonetheless, today the clip keeps circulating the Internet portrayed as real.

 

The fact that even though its authenticity was never verified, hundreds of thousands of people, including the media, immediately believed it was, makes this video especially relevant in comparison to other fake news.

The setting -actually located in Malta and already used for filming “Troy”or “Gladiator”- looked exactly like any of the real images of the civil Syrian war we watch everyday on TV. Besides, the bad quality of the camera (a mobile phone) and the way it was filmed, indicate it is an amateur video, which makes more believable that the author was in such dangerous area since he surely could be a citizen (especially after being uploaded to Shaam News Network channel). This is reasserted by the shouts that can be heard close to the camera which translated from Arabic mean “God is great”. All these characteristics made the clip extremely realistic and credible.

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The video was, in fact, filmed with professional actors and some Syrian refugees who played the voices shouting

Surprisingly, what probably made the video viral is also the only reason why it could seem false, as explained in the later press release: “[…] the children surviving gunshots was supposed to send small clues that it was not real”. It is quite shocking the way both children avoid the bullets which surround them during the initial run of the boy and their final escape. Nonetheless, it is quite likely that the authenticity of the video would have remained covered if their authors would not have admitted the truth. However, in these times of war, even though we are watching it from a safe home, seeing this kind of events in which people show  so much solidarity makes the whole world have faith in humanity and a little hope in a worldwide peaceful future. We definitely demand watching this kind of events, although most of the times we do it in the form of fiction (films are filled with heroic characters and acts). Therefore, our opinion is that this is what made this video successful, as people everywhere just want to believe.

The video ended up becoming an extremely controversial issue. Although its aim was to increase awareness on children affected by war, its response was mainly negative. In an open letter addressing the director, journalists and activists from many countries condemn the clip, claiming, for instance:

“This film undermines the work and the people who continue to document crimes against humanity”.

In addition, other people consider there is no need to make fiction from the misery of children, since it is a reality in places like Syria and can only do the opposite effect to the one desired. A Syrian-Dutch journalist states:

“It introduces doubt into any story that has come out of Syria over the last few years as well as anything that will come out in future. People on both sides will use this to their advantage. And if people are unable to tell the difference between fact and fiction they will quickly lose interest in a conflict that is causing untold misery.”

Finally, another interesting quote on the controversy, coming from Fred Adams, of Human Rights Watch:

 “By releasing a fake video, Klevberg (the director) has made it easier for war criminals to dismiss credible images of abuse.”

Dizzily infamous: The story of Anna Allen

THE FAKE LIFE OF SPANISH ACTRESS ANNA ALLEN (GERONA, 1977), UNVEILED.

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Gtresonline

 

2001. “Cuéntame cómo pasó” has just aired and it is on its way of becoming one of the most succesful TV series in Spain. The series boasts a strong cast of renowned actors (lead by Imanol Arias and Ana Duato) and also new and promising actors to play the young roles. It is in the latter where we find Anna Allen, remaining her role in “Cuéntame…” as hers most remembered by the audience.

Her character, Marta Alcántara, managed to stay in the series for nine seasons (2001-2008). Since then, what ever happened to Anna Allen?

Alright, let’s be honest. She has a decent career on Spanish TV for an actress only known by her secondary role in “Cuéntame…”. She was on “Acusados” (Telecinco, 2009-2010), and also starred telefilmes as “El Ángel de Budapest” (TVE, 2011).

“Homicidos” (2011), Telecinco’s failed attempt of police procedural series, was her last appearance on Spanish TV.

In February 2015, Anna Allen was said to be the only Spanish actress, along with Elena Anaya, to attend to the Oscars. She had already been there the previous year, as seen in a picture of her in the red carpet posted on her Instagram. The attendance of Allen to the most important awards show of the industry was due to her latest and prestigious roles on American and European television. Those included series as “The Big Bang Theory”, “White Collar”, or the recently aired “Versailles”. This stratospheric jump to Hollywood is attributed to the huge success of “Exit”, the play she wrote and directed in 2013; and the play that is going to have its own American remake, starring Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and Rupert Grint.

It would be remarkable for a Spanish TV secondary actress to have a career like that. It would be so if only the whole last paragraph were not a lie. Or a bunch of lies, one after another, still missing some ones that will be depicted later. Anna Allen invented a life of glamour, success and appreciation that any actress would want for herself. Through fake accounts in Twitter and fake images digitally retouched by Photoshop in her Instagram, she managed to maintain a huge lie for almost two years: attendance to the Oscars, pictures with the cast of “The Big Bang Theory” and with Matt Bomer (from “White Collar”)… and even “stolen” pictures from Sophie Bush’s Instagram profile, making them look as hers by only zooming the pictures.

When the lie was unveiled, all the media attention focused on her and, apart from the lie itself, this case brings out some interesting matters regarding media and the celebrity status. First of all, how did she manage to make everyone believe her? Why scriptwriters of “Pasapalabra”, producers of Cadena SER or journalists from ¡Hola!, El Mundo or 20 minutes believed her without doubting for a moment, therefore publishing and spreading the lies?    The article of El Mundo stating her attendance to the Oscars is still available, as well as the one from 20 minutos and videos of her appearances in “Pasapalabra” (links below).

El Mundo article

20 minutes article

Video: Anna Allen about “White Collar”, Matt Bomer and why he “said no to the shadows” of “50 shadows of Grey”

Video: Anna Allen on her non-existant festival of La Marque Best Actress Award for a non-existant film she acted in

How did anyone checked the impossible and rocambolesque manipulations on her Instagram before? Anna Allen’s tremendous lie ended up being succesful and unsuccesful at the same time: succesful because the world believed her for a moment, and unsuccesful because, although all eyes were on her, she actually became famous because of her lies, and not because of the truth. Anna Allen’s name is buried to the ground, in words of her acting career. But if we think it for a moment, we realize that Spain, and the world itself, as odd, surrealist and morbid as it is sometimes, might have “used” Anna Allen. There were rumours about her upcoming participation in the popular reality show “Supervivientes”, and, if she would have wanted to, a prolific career on Telecinco and its gossip shows was waiting for her. Who knows if, starting from there, camp or bizarre film directors would have wanted her to star in a film.

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Sample of Anna Allen’s Photoshop skills, from her also fake agency (the “Green Air Agency” Twitter account was deleted as well as her personal Twitter and Instagram accounts). IMDB still includes it and, until recently, it also included the fake filmography of Anna Allen. Formula TV

This gives us an idea of how twisted and unethical the media and our society can be. Anna Allen is, probably, mentally ill, but a part of us wants to know more about her: a part of us wants to see her on screen, talking about her lies, or simply carrying them further. Anna Allen’s story will remain as an unbelievable and disquieting case of fake, not because of the fake itself –that, by the way, did not made the information seem quit true, as we see in the crop-and-paste Photoshop pictures and the level of her English in the “interviews” below-, but because it leaves us naked as what we really are: attention seekers, “social animals” that need to have a focus on them at least once.

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FormulaTV

History is and will be crowded by impostors: David Hampton, Barry Bremen, Lauren Rose Wilson… Each case is different, and Anna Allen’s story reflects some sad, embarrassing aspects of our society and, as the actor Pablo Rivero (boyfriend of Anna’s character in “Cuéntame…”) said when the scandal was on its hottest point: “I haven’t seen Anna for years. I am just going to say that this is a very cruel profession.”

And it is. Allen’s dreams of becoming an international star are more far from being real than ever. Voices were raised for and against her: some claimed all to be a marketing strategy, others tried to “justify” her, after all, harmless lies by a possible psychological disorder.

Nowadays no one seems to know where Anna is. Lately someone reported seeing her on Italy, what might lead to think that she is trying to start from scratch.

To date, she has never said anything about her fake life. Not a word, not a lie.

Analysis of the case: marketing strategy or phsychological disorder?