What Price,, Cheap Fame?

Fame is a cheap commodity in the social media world. The lust for for followers has corroded the lines of behavior. Chasing likes is a pluto treasure hunt in the digital world.

Director, actor and producer Hugo Becker shows the self-destructive side of bargain basement celebrity with his Oscar qualifying short film MUKBANGER.

A Black and Paper interview with Hugo Becker.

Why do you think people are obsessed and willing to be mocked and to risk life and death for Social Media celebrity or fame?

I do not believe this starts like that, from one day to the other. It is a long and sad process. What I try to demonstrate in the movie is that it usually starts in a very genuine and naive approach. People who end up making these type of videos had no clue they would end up doing this when they were starting doing videos as teenagers. That is why it is much more dangerous than we think. It is not only for other people, some very balanced individuals sometimes fall into this downward spiral. It is the same type of addiction and vicious circle you find in drugs or porn. And I am not only talking about the creators, but also the viewers. 

Is Mukbanger a class or socio-economic issue commentary?

Money is part of the issue, for sure, for some people. But not the main reason. Love and attention are. Otherwise they would do something else I think, because there are many bad ways to make easy money. The real reasons of people getting involved in MUKBANG are I believe the quest of recognition at all costs, the loneliness, the lack of love and existential issues.

And of course the social networks and some algorithms, because let’s face it, they provoke and accelerate this downward spiral. Because they push you more and more in the same environment, leaving you in a kind of mental cage. In which the definition of success is to be viewed, to be followed. To exist. As much as possible. No matter the cost. When success actually should be about achieving something that makes sense, about helping people around you, about fighting for your ideas, trying to improve the world around you.

France is a country and culture renowned for cuisine,  you are a Frenchman,  in the movie those images are poles apart.  Please explain? 

Well, there is art cuisine and Food porn. These are two very different things. I did a series called Chefs as an actor, and we were lucky enough to be taught by great French Chefs like David Toutain, and Thierry Marx. Thanks to them, I learned that art cuisine is about creating something beautiful, supposed to make you feel good, to enlighten your day, to make you travel in your head, while learning a whole new taste universe that you might not know.

The other, Mukbang, is not about food really, it is about putting your physical health in danger with random and bad products, in a huge and absurd quantity, it is about damaging yourself, your body and in the long run your mental health. And that is what probably fascinates and/or reassures people watching. Not about the food they eat in reality. The first time I learned about Mukbang, and watched a documentary about it, I did not eat for two days. Not only because of the food, but because I could not believe it was a real phenomenon watched by millions of people. And when I realized it was actually real, and not science-fiction, I was terrified that we already got to that point… As if the tv show in the movie Requiem for a dream was actually really broadcasted on Fox.


There is a slippery slope of good guy/bad guy in the film, explain.

My intention was clearly not to point out one person responsible for the whole thing. But on the opposite, I strongly believe that all of them share a responsibility at their level. Like we all do on many subjects. Of course, everyone in its own way, and at a different level of responsibility. But is Mika naive and innocent? No. Is his manager protecting him like he should? No. Is the broadcaster supposed to let them do this? Probably not. Are people supposed to watch things like that and encourage the creation of such videos ? Clearly not. Can the family have a good and or bad influence over it? Yes, but sometimes we unfortunately do not even realize how our reactions, and choices can affect and have consequences for other people around us. So, question is, once we know, what do we do about it? What is the limit? 

What was the cinematography influence?

So many geniuses. So many people I admire. Complicated to say. Of course, I am an unconditional fan of Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, Milos Forman, Agnès Varda, Darren Aronofsky, Joachim Trier… I have always been impressed of the way they manage to put you in the shoes of the character so that you feel like him and you understand his weirdest behavior without explanations.

For that film, Mukbanger, I wanted the audience to feel trapped inside, like him. Looking for a way out, trying to escape. That is why I used this format 4:3, and I made these frame choices of Mika literally eating the frame. In the meantime, it had to be moving and interacting all the time so you never get a chance to stop and think, like him, you just go on, because you want see further, you want to know how it ends, you are addicted.

I also somehow wanted the audience at the end of the film to understand that they actually are in the position of the viewers, the “voyeurs”, and to understand how addictive this can be for anyone. And thus why we have to be extremely careful, especially for the younger generation. Because this addiction is part of us… you want more ? Well, this is human nature, most of us if not all of us do unfortunately. All right then, but therefore it is urgent that we help people focus on the interesting, on the beautiful, on the things that are greater than us. Talk about ideas, about how to improve things, and not waste time watching people wasting their own life Mukbanging.

To me, this phenomenon is like an alarm, it is really the metaphor of human nature over-consuming and choosing the wrong path. This movie is a small attempt to stop it.