Category Archives: Film

“POSITIVE FORCE: MORE THAN A WITNESS”— Punk Music and Social Justice

positive force

“Positive Force: More Than A Witness”

Punk Music and Social Justice

Amos Lassen

Robin Bell brings us a documentary that looks at “the relationship between D.C. punk and do-gooderism. Seamlessly situating a musical moment within the larger cultural context of Reaganomics, the rise of riot grrrl feminism, pacifist protest and other issues.” Positive Force DC came into being in 1985 and was born as part of the local scene by Bad Brains, Minor Threat, and Rites of Spring, a handful of young activists. They drew inspiration from UK anarcho-punks Crass and the original “Positive Force” band and are now thought to be one of the most long-lasting and influential exponents of punk politics.

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Director Bell skillfully mixes rare archival footage (including electrifying live performances from Fugazi, Bikini Kill, Rites of Spring, Nation of Ulysses, Anti-Flag, and more) with new interviews of key Positive Force activists including co-founder Mark Andersen (co-author of Dance of Days) and Jenny Toomey (Simple Machines, Tsunami) as well as supporters such as Ian MacKaye, Jello Biafra, Dave Grohl, Ted Leo, Riot Grrrl co-founders Allison Wolfe and Kathleen Hanna, and many more. The film covers thirty years from the origins in Reagan-era origins, the creation of its communal house, FBI harassment, and the rise of a vibrant underground that burst into the mainstream amid controversy over both the means and the ends of the movement. Positive Force has persisted through all of this, remaining deeply rooted in their hometown, reaching out to those in need and building bridges between diverse communities.

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At the same PF regularly brings punk protest to the front doors of those in power. It is an all-volunteer group has helped to nurture several generations of activists. In the best punk fashion, PF has applied creative DIY tactics and radical critiques to issues of homelessness, hunger, racism, corporate globalization, sexism, homophobia, war, gentrification, and animal/earth liberation, while struggling to constructively address conflicting dynamics and visions within the group itself.

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It is important to note that the filmmakers’ portion of the proceeds from the sale of the DVD will benefit the We Are Family senior outreach network.

The DVD includes the following extras:

Wake Up! A Profile of Positive Force (28 min., 1991)

Green Hair, Grey Hair (28 min., 2008)

Punks, Votes, Riots (21 min., 2014)

Live at Positive Force (34 min. of bonus performances by Fugazi, Seven Seconds, Chumbawamba, Anti-Flag, Soulside, The Evens, and Beefeater).

“THE DARK VALLEY”— A Revenge Western (from Austria)

dark valley

“The Dark Valley” (“Das finstere Tal”)

A Revenge Western

Amos Lassen

I doubt many of you have ever seen an Austrian western film so this might just be the first. This is an all American western that was made in Austria and based on the novel by Thomas Willman. It is also Austria’s entry in this year’s Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards®. A lone rider (Sam Riley) arrives in a small high mountain village where no one knows who he is or where he is from. It is immediately obvious that he is not wanted there.

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He introduces himself as a photographer from America, and the town’s patriarch, Old Brenner, provides him with shelter for the harsh winter ahead. Cut off by snowfall and barely a ray of sunlight reaching the valley, a tragic accident in the village leads to the death of one of Brenner’s beloved sons. When another son is mysteriously killed, it’s clear this is not a coincidence: the time has come for Brenner’s family to pay, and Greider plans to settle a score long forgotten by everyone but him.

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Director Andreas Prochaska captures an interesting and rather poetic ambience, even as it manages to neglect both its protagonist and rather garish details that mistakenly takes the film into the horror film genre. The people of the town are unaccustomed to strangers and why the photographer is there is a big question. His reasons for staying seem unclear, but he befriends a young woman, Luzi (Paula Beer) and her widowed mother (Carmen Gratl), with whom he lodges. Quickly he learns that the law of the land is the Brenner clan, run by an aging patriarch (Hans-Michael Rehberg). Cruel and miserable, his six adult boys have adopted some strange customs in the region, long standing traditions that happen to be the reason that the American born Grieder has showed up on their doorstep.

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There is one problem and that is that the film is very slow moving. As Grieder’s past is revealed, (and therefore his motives for vengeance), the present day correlation about to be experienced by Luzi and her groom feels a bit too convenient. The film opens with the crime that we return to later but we tend to forget that opening as the movie progresses.

Most western heroes are physically imposing types who openly resort to violence once they are pushed. Greider, however, is not either overly imposing or easily drawn into fighting. We see him as a patient, intelligent man waiting for the ideal moment to let his purpose be known. There is a lot going on here and in all fairness, I am not going to tell you any of it. I have no doubts that this is a film that will draw people in and I recommend that everyone find a place where this film is being screened. It is quite an experience.

“APP”— A Techno Thriller

APP

“APP”

A Techno Thriller

Amos Lassen

The new Dutch film “App” is a straightforward techno-thriller that hopes to enhance the experience with a unique second-screen phone app experience. Moviegoers already pull out their phones far too frequently in theaters, so if you think this sounds like a nightmare scenario you’re not alone. Anna (Hannah Hoekstra) has her hands full with a boyfriend, classwork and a brother in the hospital, but her life grows even more out of control when a mysterious app appears on her phone. IRIS is helpful at first, but soon we see that the malicious app is spying, sharing compromising photos and videos and manipulating the electronic world around Anna with deadly consequences.

Anna is greatly attached to her Smartphone and she reminds that, “The more means of communication people have available to them the less they communicate.”

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Anna’s always on and instantly available, but it’s not until she wakes up the day after a big party that she discovers the app she didn’t know she needed. It’s been installed on her phone without her consent and immediately starts making her life easier. IRIS is a self-described personal assistant, capable of setting reminders, updating calendars and more, but “she” soon goes about controlling more questionable parts of Anna’s life too.

Surprising and compromising videos start appearing and it seems that Anna’s phone is the source for that. However, no one believes that the phone is acting on its own and instead Anna finds herself ostracized for being so cruel. Any attempts to uninstall the app are fruitless so she sets out to discover the who and the why behind it all.

Director Bobby Boermans and writer Robert Arthur Jansen keep things moving at a solid pace and the resulting story gets more than a little crazy as more is revealed, but it wisely keeps the scale small and manageable. The story uses thriller trappings in service of a slight commentary on the ever-encroaching technological tide of devices and information. Indeed we see that the more things we have doing things for us the less things we’re doing for ourselves or with other people. Human contact and the natural order of life are being more and more compromised, or enhanced, by technology. And maybe that’s not as good of a thing as we think.

This is a great idea for a film but here we do not see anything exceptional about it. Anna is smart and capable both intellectually and physically, and it’s incredibly refreshing to see. The men in her life are never the determining factors or catalysts for action in the same way they often are in American films. Hoekstra makes Anna a convincing character in both her dramatic delivery and her physical prowess, and she is charismatic.

I can’t really say much about the plot because this is a mystery so let me just say that while this is not a great film, it certainly is an interesting one.

The home video release includes extensive bonus content:

  • Director Bobby Boerman’s commentary
  • Special Effects bonus featurette
  • Original APP theatrical trailer 

“THE RED TENT”— Meeting Dinah

the red tent

“The Red Tent”

Meeting Dinah

Amos Lassen

Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and mentioned briefly in the Hebrew bible. In Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent” she becomes a major character and in fact tells us her story. In doing so we get a look at the traditions and turmoil of ancient womanhood. She tells us about her mothers who were Jacob’s four wives—Dinah’s tale begins with the story of her mothers, the four wives of Jacob— Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah. The women love Dinah and give her gifts that are to sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah also tells us of the world of the red tent, the place where women were sequestered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and illness; of her initiations into the religious and sexual practices of her tribe; of Jacob’s courtship with his four wives; of the mystery and wonder of caravans, farmers, shepherds, and slaves; of love and death in the city of Shechem; and of her half-brother Joseph’s rise in Egypt.

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I am quite sure that many never expected to see Dinah emerge as a full-bodied character, a woman who was a lusty midwife and who took her destiny into her own hands and that is what Anita Diamant did with her novel, “The Red Tent”. After all, all that we really know of her in the bible is that she was raped and that her brothers avenged that horrid act.

Diamant, in her novel, took the shards of Dinah’s story that were in a fairly short chapter in the book of Genesis, and gave us a layered tale of sisterhood, friendship and love. The book was recently adapted into a mini-series for television that stars the Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson as Dinah, Minnie Driver as Leah and Morena Baccarin (as Rachel, Iain Glen as Jacob, and the Israeli actress Hiam Abbas as Queen Re-Nefer. The new film draws heavily from Diamant’s novel, which that has brought about a new literary genre based on Bible stories.

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The film version takes liberties with Diamant’s text. The story details how Jacob accumulated his four wives and how they all came to love the arrangement, so long as they could retire to the red tent now and then to talk and celebrate their life-giving abilities. “In the red tent, we surround ourselves with healing hands and loving voices, and we give thanks for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that the cost of life is blood.” Dinah eventually grows up, goes through some terrible events but she is a survivor.

“The Red Tent” fleshes out the story of Dinah, the only named daughter of Jacob, whose scant mention in Genesis 34 unleashes one of the Bible’s greatest stories. But its ambitions make this two-night production feel scattered. It is a female-centric story yet it is not a feminist look at the bible. We hear nothing about God, yet “The Red Tent” is an enjoyable tale of one woman’s survival, and maybe it’s unfair to expect a cable miniseries to draw viewers with unknown actors who look just like their biblical counterparts might have. Between the issues of race, tribalism, rape and consent, “The Red Tent” covers a lot of ground.

Whether you believe it to be truth, fiction or somewhere in between, the Bible is always difficult to adapt to film or television. There is a lot of plot but not much dialogue, narrative and transition and very little character development.

“ABOVE AND BEYOND”— The Birth of Israel’s Air Force

 above and beyond

Above and Beyond

The Birth of Israel’s Air Force

Amos Lassen

With Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, a group of World War II pilots volunteered to fight for the new country. They became members of Machal (volunteers from abroad) and they not only changed the course of the war and prevented the possible end of Israel, they were also the groundwork for the Israeli Air Force. We have here interviews with pilots that flew in Israel’s War of Independence as well as interviews with scholars and statesman who give us information about this tidbit of history that we know so little about.

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1948 was just three years after the liberation of Nazi death camps. It was then that a group of Jewish American pilots answered a call for help. In secret and at great personal risk, they smuggled planes out of the U.S., trained behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia and flew for Israel in its War of Independence. They were unified but ragtag and they helped to turn the tide of the war. There was something else as well— they embarked on personal journeys of discovery and renewed Jewish pride.

Their story is not known but it is one of heroism and nerve. It all began here in the States when pilots met and trained in secret and tried to stay ahead of the FBI. They went off to Panama, Italy and Czechoslovakia and they flew versions of the same Nazi planes they had tried to shoot down in World War II.

The film explores the motivations of the foreign volunteers – both Jews and non-Jews. We see the tension that existed between the Israelis and the volunteers. We get questions and there are some answers. But by and large this is a personal film that tells the stories of the pilots whose lives were changed by the experiences they had in Israel. We see just how under-equipped and isolated the Israelis were and how desperately they needed planes and pilots and how critical the actions of these young American men were for the country’s survival.

When we think of the Israeli Air Force as it is today, it is difficult to see that it began as just two rickety Piper Cubs piloted by former US airmen. Things got better when other pilots were able to get to a Czech airbase to train and as it happened this was done on Me-109s that were the mainstay of the German forces.

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At the heart of this film is the Holocaust and what happened afterwards. We are now 70 years since the founding of Israel and it is easy to forget that the original Israeli Air Force was made up of less than a half-dozen rickety fighter planes and a handful of second-hand transports that were flown by a band of young, carousing WWII vets. Director Roberta Grossman (“Blessed is the Match”, “Hava Nagila”) managed to interview many of the surviving fliers.. George Lichter of Brooklyn boy says boldly that “I knew I was risking my citizenship and jail time [by breaking the American arms embargo]. I didn’t give a s***.”

There is a bit of cloak and dagger here as well with the smuggling of weapons, combat high in the air and international politics. The witnesses remind us of the life-or-death nature of the struggle for Palestine/Israel and that was not a young man’s caper but a fight of immense proportions. Modi Alon, the first commander of Israel’s first fighter squadron’s death and heroism anchor the film and then there are the historians who put the events into proper context. The real center of the film, however, is the American fliers whose Jewish identities were profoundly shaped by the experience of helping make the dream of a modern Jewish state a reality.

“SUCH GOOD FRIENDS”— On NYC’s Upper East Side

such good friends

“Such Good Friends”

On NYC’s Upper East Side

Amos Lassen

Julie Messinger (Dyan Cannon) has a good life. Her husband Richard (Lawrence Luckinbill) is an editor for a New York prominent photography magazine. They have a small group of good friends that includes Dr. Timothy Spector (James Coco), photographer Cal Whiting (Ken Howard) and Cal’s live-in girlfriend Miranda (Jennifer O’Neill). Julie’s mother spends her days getting pedicures and manicures, applying make-up and fake eye-lashes and buying expensive clothes, all the while criticizing her daughter for her looks and behavior. When Richard goes into the hospital for a minor mole-removal surgery, Julie gets more than she bargained for. Richard suffers from complications and goes into a coma, supposedly caused by a rare surgical factor, and she gathers friends and family together, culminating in a hilarious “quasi-cocktail-party” scene in the blood donation center of the hospital. While dealing with red tape, hospital bureaucracy and clueless doctors, Julie discovers her husband’s “little black book,” which contains many names. Julie almost goes mad as she teeters wildly between her repressive domestic space and the promiscuous excess of her cohort in search of a salubrious balance.

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Director Otto Preminger experienced a public post-mid-life professional crisis in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He tried to figure out what the kids those days were up to. In 1971, Preminger hooked up with Elaine May, one of the most complicated and gifted geniuses of the emerging youth movement to make a movie about what was going on. Unfortunately it did not work. The film has no intimacy.

Julie lives the affluent life among others that own attractive apartments and luxury cars but mostly take taxis wherever they go. A responsible nanny takes care of the kids during the day, so Julie has plenty of free time to consort with her trendy best friends Cal and Miranda. She lets her imagination take over because her husband Richard can’t seem to find the energy to make love with any regularity. Of course everything changes when Richard goes into the hospital. When Richard goes into a coma, Julie is confused by the reaction of her friends

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who would not think of letting the catastrophe interfere with their personal agendas. A number of Julie’s acquaintances take Richard’s absence for granted, an issue that can be dropped by changing the subject. A couple of men even make amorous overtures toward Julie, including Richard’s doctor, Tim Spector. Bombarded with friends urging her to sue for medical malpractice, and getting only partial support from her mother (Nina Foch), Julie finds herself continuing to fantasize sexual relations with other men in her life. She plays around with Cal and Tim, Cal and Tim, looking for the answer… which leads to some startling revelations about her husband’s oddly coded address book. Everybody knew what Richard was doing, but nobody told Julie…

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In addition to writer Elaine May working under a pseudonym, Joan Didion reportedly contributed to the final script. The skillful, excellent dialogue shows the superficiality of Julie Messinger’s relationships. Most of the smug conversation at the publishing party is sarcastic or demeaning commentary on the ritual. Everybody loves Richard but nobody is particularly affectionate and we sense that there are a lot of false faces.

Dyan Cannon is very good as Julie. She gives a sensitive and honest portrayal and we see that she is more together than the friends who surround her. about her feelings, she discovers that she’s quite a bit more together than some of the selfish and immature people around her. She really wants to save her husband — even when she finds out how unfaithful he was — but she acknowledges that life will go on should he die. She’s sexually something of a loose cannon, as seen when she responds to Tim and Cal’s casual overtures.

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“Such Good Friends” is a refreshingly open look at marriage and friendship. The movie is full of acting talent—Sam Levene, Louise Lasser, Rita Gam, Nancy Guild, Elaine Joyce, Doris Roberts and Salome Jens as well as those already named. This is a classy feature film with some kinky scenes (yet is rated “R” for content).

 

 

“FRENCH AFFAIRS”— A Satire on Fidelity

french affairs

“FRENCH AFFAIRS”

A Satire on Fidelity

Amos Lassen

 Astrid (Marie Caldera) is a professional therapist who struggles to find meaningful friendships. She starts having an affair with her patient Céline’s husband, Oliver (Eric Bonicatto) and this puts additional strain on an already difficult relationship with her son, David (Yoann Denaive), who disapproves of his mother’s taste in men. Meanwhile, Céline (Celine Rajot), who is a retired prostitute content with living a domesticated life, befriends David when he tries run away from home by booking flight through her travel agency. However, when David discloses the affair to Céline, she must decide how to deal with the betrayal and lies. 

It has been said that the French know how to make movies and this film can be offered in proof of that. The film brings drama and comedy together in this very good satire on marriage fidelity. This is one of those films that to summarize the plot does a disservice to those who will see the film. I can say that director and writer Pierre-Loup Rajot shows us how far a woman is willing to go in order to please everyone. The film mocks everyone and everything including gender. The film also challenges ideas of love and romance while we watch the four characters try to find ways to please each other yet never knowing what it takes to make themselves happy. Here is a new look at monogamy, family and responsibility. More than I cannot say except that I really enjoyed the film.

“ATTACK OF THE MORNINGSIDE MONSTER”— Brutal Murders

attack of the morning side monster

“Attack of the Morningside Monster”

 Brutal Murders

Amos Lassen

“Attack of the Morningside Monster” is a horror/ thriller about a brutal murder in the otherwise-peaceful town of Morningside, New Jersey. As more and more turn up, Sheriff Tom Haulk and his deputy, Klara Austin, race against time on a desperate journey to catch the killer, pitting them against friends, enemies and even each other. It all began with desecrated corpses and ritualistic symbols appearing in Morningside.

While tracking the killer, the officers are forced to tangle with deadly serious local drug runners, and Tom faces his own demons as he watches his closest friends struggle against impossible odds. This is a character driven approach to the time honored tradition of the masked killer and there are equal parts blood and human emotion. says director Chris Etheridge. The film was written by Jayson Palmer and directed by Chris Etheridge. It is a bit over the top but lots of fun.

“KIDS FOR CASH”— Luzerne County, PA

kids for cash

“Kids for Cash”

Luzerne County, PA

Amos Lassen

Many of you might remember the scandal in the juvenile justice system in Luzerne County, PA that rocked the nation. A documentary about it is coming our way on DVD December 2, and it bonus features including additional interviews and an informational booklet with links to extra content. The film examines the scandalous scheme that resulted in over 3000 children being sentenced to prison terms by a newly elected judge who, in exchange, secretly received millions of dollars in payments from the privately owned juvenile detention system of Luzerne County, PA.

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 What we see here is not only the corruption in the legal system and the children whose lives who were ruined by it but also the results of the happening. The small town in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania elected a charismatic judge who was determined to keep kids in line. Under his reign, over 3,000 children were ripped from their families and imprisoned for years over petty crimes. When one parent dared to question the judge about his concept of justice it was revealed he had received millions of dollars in payments from the privately owned juvenile detention centers where the kids were incarcerated. The film exposes the scandal behind the headlines, featuring exclusive access to the judges behind the scheme. Director Richard May has dome an exceptional job to bring all of this to light.

 Mark Ciavarella ran for judge in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania advocating zero-tolerance policies for crimes committed by out-of-control youth. Many school officials, police officers, and community leaders who were zealous law and order advocates supported him and his ideas. Within a short period of time after he was elected 3,000 kids were sent to prison. No one dared to speak out against his reign of terror — not the police, other judges, public defenders, prosecutors, probation officers, school leaders, or detention center operators.

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Director May brings us profiles of and interviews with some of the twelve and thirteen year-old boys and girls whose lives were destroyed by Ciavarella’s decisions. These include “a girl who wrote a satirical MySpace page about a vice-principal at school, a boy whose parents bought him a stolen scooter, a kid who briefly fought in a school yard, and an unruly teenager whose parents wanted him to feel the sting of punishment for wrong-doing”. In other schools on the United States these minor infringements would have, at most, resulted in s three-day suspension or a visit to the principal’s office. In Ciavarella’s court, they resulted in three- to five-year sentences in lockup.

We see the shock and suffering of these boys and girls as they are taken from family and friends and denied the experience of adolescence in high school. One of them committed suicide, and others succumbed to depression and post-traumatic stress. I can only wonder how parents could allow this to occur.

The Juvenile Law Center first uncovered Ciavarella’s habit of sentencing youth without their having the benefit of legal counsel. After years of commendation from grateful citizens, the judge lost many supporters when he and fellow judge Michael Conahan were indicted on money-laundering charges, having profited from the closing down of a state juvenile detention center and the creation of a new private facility. This is a long overdue critique of a juvenile justice system that has run amok and this includes the privatization of penal institutions, and the unethical aspects of making money by putting people in American prisons, as well. Here in the United States there are more youth incarcerated than any other country in the world and this is a reflection of the larger trends in the nation’s prison-industrial complex.

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The scandal went public in 2009, when Pennsylvania judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan were accused of accepting kickbacks from a privately run juvenile detention facility in exchange for providing them with inmates. In 2011, the judges were found guilty of various charges (but, as should be noted, not the most serious graft charges). Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in prison, while Conahan was given 17. Given the extent of the judges’ crimes and the profound effect it had on the lives of these juveniles who committed trivial offenses, they got off relatively easy.

Interestingly enough Ciavarella and Conahan participated in the making of the documentary while their case was proceeding. Ciavarella, in particular, adamantly denies any wrongdoing – to the extent that his plea agreement was thrown out by the presiding judge. Whether he’s lying to the camera, or to himself, or both, is unclear, and he was in fact found innocent of several of the main counts. But it’s hard to take him seriously, especially after the emotionally wrenching testimony that the children and their parents tell us. They seem to have been constantly manipulated and taken advantage of by someone who is supposed to have justice and fairness in mind, from having them sign their right to an attorney away to sentencing a child to several years in a facility for creating a fake MySpace page about her principal.

This is a powerful and important film especially regarding the abuse of power. It is a shocking and impartial portrait of justice denied and childhoods erased.”

“INREALLIFE’— The Internet and Youth

in real life

“InRealLife”

The Internet and Youth

Amos Lassen

“InRealLife” (yes, all one word) takes us on a journey from the bedrooms of British teenagers to the world of Silicon Valley, to find out what exactly the Internet is doing to our children. Filmmaker Beeban Kidron suggests that rather than the promise of free and open connectivity, young people are becoming increasingly trapped in a commercial world. What seems tempting and exciting can actually alienating and addictive. “InRealLife” asks if we can afford to stand by while children, trapped in their 24/7 connectivity, are being outsourced to the net?

The film examines how children are adapting to the technological world we live in. This is an eye-opening and sometimes shocking documentary that examines the constantly developing relationship between technology and psychology. It features some very important people that include Julian Assange, Nicolas Negroponte, Jimmy Wales, Luis Von Ahn, Sherry Turkle, Nicholas Carr and Maggie Jackson.

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We have learned that western civilizations are vastly ignorant over the repercussions of their online activities. What’s more, the influence the web has on its into its present users doesn’t begin to show how this will affect years to come. Youth today has become web-dependent and we see this by following disturbing accounts from internet-addicted teens.

 We are given an ambiguous collection of horror stories that showcase the frailty of the human condition in the hands of corporate computer companies. The director uses a sustained journalistic approach that collates an unabridged cache of industry professionals, commentators and users. Teenage case studies to explore their online deviations. Opening with 15-year-old Ryan, the director inquires what the boy enjoys most about the web. Unsurprisingly, Ryan tells us about his fixation with online pornography. We see that this is a very common reply but what we hear from Ryan is much deeper than boyish innocence. With the aid of Kidron’s reassuring interview style, Ryan realizes his secularization from experiencing real-life emotions – love, intimacy – fuelled by his sexual voyeurism. There are other stories like Ryan’s that are cleverly interspersed with the appropriate intellectual scaremongering one would expect from a topic as universal as Internet addiction. Julian Assange preaches of libertarian democracy from his Ecuadoran embassy impound, while other speakers such as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Sherry Turkle highlight the damaging nature of the digital age upon our youth.

 “InRealLife” whittles down to highlighting macro issues on a desperately micro scale. Every tale told is enough to merit its own feature length analysis. Alternatively, we see each point of concern —the reality of cyber-bullying, addictive insecurities, corporate monopolization, etc. This is very much like a science-fiction horror story except that this is not fiction. It is cinematic storytelling and is in fact, a documentary feature that reels you into a genuinely creepy-crawly world. It presents us with a reality in which children are stripped of humanity and it doesn’t get scarier than this.

We witness how kids filter their contact and communication with others via an insidious online assault upon their individuality (“or, as the best dystopian science fiction will always have us believe, their very souls”).

The movie is compelling and terrifying and diverting as it is, we face something here head-on. Though a 90-minute feature film can only glance upon the surface of such a huge subject, director Kidron does so with such mesmerizing commitment the picture moves us forward and keeps our eyes glued to the screen.

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 Several of the stories are downright horrific and as such, they are presented with clear, simple compositions and just the right off-camera questions and conversation to let the kids do what they need to do and say. The same goes for the interviews with all the various experts in the fields of psychology, engineering, marketing and, of course, the various cyber worlds of texting, gaming, social networking, net surfing and face-to-face communications as explained and opined upon by said experts.

 There is a girl’s tale than when she relates how, upon finally acquiring a cell phone it’s snatched from her by a teenage boy who leads her back to a flat where she is forced to endure a gang-bang to get her phone back. But there is also the opposite— a gay teen that engages in a long-distance online relationship with another lad. Neither of the boys had met each other, yet when Kidron follows one of the boys on his long journey to finally meet his online lover and we see genuine warmth, endearment and respect that offer a sense of hope to gray world of cyber communication.

 We meet a variety of kids: for example, two young boys so addicted to internet porn that they happily and somewhat innocently expect women to look like porn stars and to perform sex acts identical to those they watch on their computer monitors. They express that anything less in real life would be a horrible disappointment. Then there’s a clearly brilliant young man who has messed up his otherwise promising academic standing at Oxford with his online addictions and now spends virtually every waking hour in front of a computer – social networking or gaming. When asked what he’d do if these options were not available, he admits, somewhat disappointedly, that he’d “probably” have to “read a book”.

 The tales continue, but are alternated with y a series of interviews with the experts who provide information and analysis that many of us probably know and/or ignore. What is really frightening is just how many parents have no idea of what their kids are up to and this is certainly reflected in a nasty case of cyber bullying Kidron shows us, one that escalates into every parent’s worst nightmare.

 The film hammers home a series of basic facts – most of which seem perfectly reasonable under the circumstances. Websites are designed to track us and the threat to privacy has never been direr. The sites are there to collect date and with all this information comes power.