Left-leaning documentary filmmakers of the Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock mould might not be the most obvious bedfellows for a multinational drug company. But Britain's largest pharmaceuticals firm, GlaxoSmithKline, plans to pour more than $1m (£628,000) into a film about the dangers of obesity. It dubs the documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth about mindless eating".
The Creative Coalition, a social affairs pressure group founded by Hollywood activists including actors Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin, is expected to unveil plans for the movie at the Sundance film festival later this month.
GlaxoSmithKline's motives, inevitably, are not entirely philanthropic. It sells an over-the-counter medication, Alli, which has as its active ingredient orlistat, a drug developed to treat obesity. The company believes that fostering public discussion of obesity will increase sales; it already gets revenues of £16m a month from the drug. Robin Bronk, executive director of the coalition, was untroubled by the tie-up. He called the film "reverse product placement". "It's issue placement," he told PR Week. "We're using filmmaking to promote a film message. Art influences. Look at Al Gore, he couldn't move the needle on global warming until he went Hollywood."
GSK calls its funding a "donation" and said it will have no editorial control over the documentary, a fly-on-the-wall exploration of unhealthy relationships with food.