Here is Part II of my adventures at Tribeca Film Festival, 2018 (Part I is here).
I have to admit that for as much as I am on various social media platforms during the day, I have not heard this term, netizen. But I guess it is a thing (and makes sense too).
In the wake of #MeToo, many are welcoming the long-overdue conversation we need to have as a society about how we interact with one another in public and private online spaces. As any extended period of time in these spaces will show you, it is not the “world community utopia” which many hoped it would be. At best, online trolling, etc. is merely annoying. At its worst, the interactions can be harrowing and life-altering, as examined in Netizens, directed by Cynthia Lowen.
In this documentary, Lowen looks at three subjects whose lives have been affected by online harassment. After watching this film, I even feel like I am letting the perpetrators off pretty easy by simply calling it “harassment” because what is happening is a violation of the most insidious nature and includes a variety of digital abuse, such as:
- Non-consensual pornography
- Threats of violence
- Privacy invasions
- Character attacks
For me a main driver of the narrative is the profile of Carrie Goldberg, a New York City-based attorney who has opened a law firm which specializes in Internet privacy and sexual assault and their intersection. For Carrie, herself a victim of cyberharrassment, this truly is a life’s work. This is not stated to underplay or diminish the stories of the other women featured (Tina and Anita Sarkeesian). In fact, every woman is given equal time to share their terrifying experiences of being the targets of such horrible personal attacks. But Ms. Goldberg’s story seems to lie at the nexus of all the cases of harassment and how we as a society respond to it (or don’t). The ability of these women to be able to come out on the other side with the courage to share their stories is worthy of our notice.
However as I left the screening, I wanted to hear MORE because it felt like there was a lot more story to tell. After some contemplation, I came to the conclusion that this (sadly) is just the beginning and that there will be many more stories for others to tell …
The Party’s Just Beginning
Written, directed and starring Karen Gillan, The Party’s Just Beginning is an interestingly constructed narrative which, according to the director’s own words, is her way of touching on a very disturbing trend she has observed in her native Scotland – the alarming number of males who are taking their own lives.
We bear witness to this through the eyes of Gillan’s character, Liusaidh, who is a bit of an aimless twenty-something confronted with the chilling reality that the lives of those around her are as desolate as the rugged Scottish Highlands surrounding them. In the midst of this despair, she encounters a couple of strangers – an Englishman (Lee Pace) and an older gentleman who calls her home phone mistaking it for a suicide helpline. The audience’s perspective on what is going on with Liusaidh is dependent on where you are in the story and with whom she is interacting.
Now that I have had some time to sit with this film, I have to tell you that overall, I felt that it was a charming, if not pretty dour film (and maybe just a bit too much of a downer). At the end, I did wonder – What was this all for? – I mean that for both the film itself and the contemplation of what is going on within the film. Perhaps that is the point – I hardly know.
But there is one thing I do know, that Ms. Gillan does have a talent to tell a story – both in front of and behind the camera.