Have you ever heard of a movie called A Landscape Of Lives? A few years back, it was the talk of the town.
Boasting a £20 million budget and with the likes of Michael Caine, Jeremy Irons and Omar Sharif its producers’ ideal casting choices, the complex crime thriller was clearly the next big thing in London gangster flicks to come roaring out of the UK.
Only, it really wasn’t.
Because the people behind it were in fact a bankrupt businessman and a failed actress, attempting to de-fraud HMRC out of a huge sum of money by saying they were making a big-budget production, and immediately claiming back a huge sum in tax credits.
Arrests were made, the key players were bailed, and it looked like that was that. But the individuals behind the scam thought they had one card left to play.
In an apparent bid to convince the courts that they were a legitimate film-making enterprise, while on bail they set out to make their mooted movie on a complete shoe-string, with a quarry in Essex standing in for the Middle East, and a cast that included a former Eastenders regular, and a panel-member from Loose Women.
Oh, and the clincher? The film was re-titled as ‘A Landscape Of Lies‘.
You really couldn’t make it up.
If you like bizarre crime stories and entertainingly bad movies, you’ll love The Great Gangster Film Fraud – a documentary charting this completely ballsy and lame-brained enterprise.
Screened on BBC Four at the weekend, and now available for the next 28 days on iPlayer, I heartily recommend checking out the funny, insightful and occasionally jaw-dropping factual tale.
Featuring interviews with people involved in the production, cringe-inducingly awkward ‘behind the scenes’ video diaries created by the scammers themselves, and tremendous footage of the low-budget film that they ultimately ended up with, it spirals into a tale of outrageous incompetence as the wannabe producers end up hopelessly out of their depth.
Best of all is watching construction mogul turned hair-brained Harvey Weinstein pretender Bashar Al-Issa deciding he’s going to create more films under his company’s rather dubious banner – and direct them himself.
Getting a glimpse of the hilariously awful end results is nothing short of a schadenfreude-filled joy (“Telephone? TELEPHONE?!”).
We can do without the cheeky cockney geezer narration, perhaps, but The Great Gangster Film Fraud is one of those entertaining documentaries that ushers us into an enthralling, unlikely real story while also providing some interesting talking points.
There are contributions from stalwarts of the low-budget British film scene, and – if anything – it proves that making a movie really isn’t as easy as it looks.
It’s also worth noting that A Landscape Of Lies, thanks to the efforts of director Paul Knight, doesn’t look half bad considering it was made for about sixty grand. Half crap and half-genius, getting a glimpse behind its creation and seeing the end result is every bit as satisfying as watching The Room, or a similarly doomed disaster project.
You can watch The Great Gangster Film Fraud on iPlayer now