LOS ANGELES: United Artists is in the midst of a targeted outreach campaign for the independent film Osama that has successfully united diverse political voices from President Bush to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The film, which is the first feature made in Afghanistan post-Taliban, follows the story of a young girl whose family disguises her as a boy so she can seek work to support them. Made for about $50,000, the film is being distributed by UA, the specialty label of MGM. Because of the indie nature of the film and its limited release -on about 25 screens - in select markets, the marketing budget is extremely limited.
"You can't afford to put that much into a film like this, so you have to pick your spots," said MGM VP of corporate communications David Bloom of the marketing campaign. However, the film's depiction of women's lives under the Taliban is timely and represents a cause that crosses traditional political boundaries. The UA team used those strengths to position the movie as a must-see for both those concerned about women's rights, and those interested in boosting support for recent American foreign policy.
"It's wonderful that people on both sides of the aisle politically would have something to agree on," said Bloom. "It's kind of rare. That we were able to reach to both sides was a testament to the movie."
The outreach began by conducting screenings for influential women's issues leaders such as Mavis Leno, wife of comic Jay Leno, who has long been associated with Afghani women's rights and is Chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan.
"We brought her (Leno) in pretty early to see a screening of the film to get her on board," said Bloom. "She helped host a screening with her organization subsequently."
That lead to further screenings in Washington with Senator Clinton, and to White House screenings for the president and first lady among others. A United Nations screening was also held last week.
High-profile political leaders who have seen the film in turn have spoken out in praise of it, garnering mention in outlets such as The Washington Post and New York Times.
President Bush himself has encouraged others to see Osama, recently telling a White House gathering that, "If you haven't seen it yet, I hope you'll have a chance to see it; I want to encourage you to see it."
The studio has also sent about 100 tapes of the film to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.