New Branson-backed documentary on UN drug war breaks the distribution mould with YouTube launch

Independent production company Sundog Pictures is launching its new feature documentary Breaking the Taboo online, replacing the traditional theatrical window with a global launch on YouTube.

Breaking the Taboo uncovers the UN-sanctioned war on drugs, charting its origins and its impact on countries including the USA, Colombia and Russia. In Mexico drug-related crime is estimated to have led to around 50,000 deaths. The film is narrated by Morgan Freeman and in Spanish-speaking markets by actor Gael Garcia Bernal.

The film will go live on December 7 on its own branded channel, available globally free of charge in the online window. It will be promoted on the YouTube homepage and marketed throughout the platform.

Google hosted celebrity premieres in London on December 5 and in New York on December 6, ahead of the film’s global online launch on Friday.

Sundog Pictures was founded in 2009 by Sam Branson (Richard’s son) as chairman. Branson was executive producer of the film. Richard Branson is a commissioner for the Global Commission on Drug Policy and other high-profile supporters of the points made in the film include Alan Sugar, Gary Barlow and Mia Farrow.

Former Virgin TV programme boss Johnny Webb joined as MD a year ago.

Webb (left) says: “We decided we wanted to reach as many people as rapidly as possible to start a global conversation and this is why we chose to launch the film on YouTube.

“Its difficult to win big audiences for documentaries via the usual route of theatrical release so we decided to go free first and so far it seems to be working with huge interest in the trailers for the film. Alongside the free online distribution, social media has already played a big role too with over 40 million Tweets so far.

“The damage caused by the so-called ‘war on drugs’ is a tremendously important issue for the whole world and we hope the film can play some part in persuading legislators and the public at large to re-evaluate drugs policy.”

The film’s supporters first aim is to mobilise at least one million signatures to a petition on demanding a rethink of UN drug policy.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.