DIR: Beeban Kidron
InRealLife is an ambitious documentary that explores how the internet affects everyday living.
A recurring thread is how the internet impinges on teenagers. Those featured all live in England. The credits thank the hundreds of teenagers and families that participated in its making, but the film features a limited selection, and the stories told appear to be chosen for their affective potential.
Ryan and Ben, aged 15, talk about pornography and their awareness of the effect it has on them. Page, 15, relates how desperate she became to acquire and keep her phone, allowing men to pay her for sexual favours and, later, pursing a gang of youths who had robbed it. These are among the more shocking, and they make for uncomfortable viewing.
Director Beeban Kidron renders the internet in its physical form: cables running underground, through sewers, emerging in massive centres where networks join together. Comparing the internet to the New York Subway, a technician describes it as having billions of stations with perhaps a dozen major stations in New York, Los Angeles, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, etc. The framing of the “internet” as dark and murky, with the ominous soundtrack that accompanies these images, positions the film as attacking the internet and its evils.
Kidron has assembled an impressive array of experts to explain the phenomena affecting the young people’s lives. Maggie Jackson, a Boston Globe columnist, and Danah Boyd, a researcher at Microsoft noted in academic circles for studying Twitter and “context collapse”, contribute interesting insights. Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, explains how Google collects data.
InRealLife reflects issues that seem to appear daily in headlines: internet bullying, security and privacy concerns, the effects of internet pornography on young men. But there is a sense that this short film encompasses too much. How well can Mr. Assange’s concerns with “the greatest spying machine” sit with the story of a teenage boy coming out as gay and meeting his online boyfriend for the first time?
Cute cats make their only appearance in montages showing YouTube clips, ads and other various websites. The range and quality of material the internet makes available are debatable. The fact that all the professionals are credited with writing books on different subjects relating to the internet’s influence speaks to the massive task that the film takes on. Kidron bravely attempts to address the issues the internet incites in one short feature. InRealLife informs and entertains, but its format limits its success.
15A (See IFCO for details)
InRealLife is released on 20th September 2013