The role of technology in our lives —and in the creative process—showed up as story and backstory in several films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This makes sense since it is 2020 and the iPhone, for instance, is now a viable filmmaking tool. But how do the outsized role phones, and other electronic devices, play in our day-to-day. What can be said about the consequences of our attachment to devices? Can we celebrate the gifts of technology while remaining mindful of the problems of overuse? Two Sundance docs offered lessons on how to strike this balance.
The Social Dilemma
The Social Dilemma is a film that I wandered into kind of agnostically. It looked interesting enough, but I did not think I’d be too affected. I ended up staying, captivated and transfixed. The film directed by Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Ice), sounds a strong warning about the perils of social media and the slippery slope of civic engagement (or lack thereof) that results from our human need for connection and approval. The resulting silence of thought, the disappearance of discourse, the fostering of fake news, and the implications to democracy, it’s all in this film, cleverly laid out in a storyline that fictionalizes these issues as they are illuminated by the Silicon Valley wizards who built the social media tools to begin with. You’ve even got the engineer who helped create Facebook’s «like» button. These tech innovators acknowledge they created a monster and they want us to wake up before it’s too late. But will we?
I mention Social Dilemma not only as a clarion call documentary about the perils of technology but also because it offers a counterpoint to Saudi Runaway, a standout Sundance 2020 documentary that illuminates the transformational power of technology.Saudi …
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