Black Code

Imagine, if you will, a world in which the government tracks your every move, knows everything you’ve purchased online, and everything you’ve posted on the internet. If that description seems familiar, it is the government’s way of doing things in George Orwell’s classic 1984. While that novel is a work of fiction that can be read in a few different ways, the governments of some of the most populous countries on Earth seem to have taken the wrong lesson from it. These governments, including the US of A, Canada, Tibet, and China, are doing exactly what was described in Orwell’s cautionary tome.

“…terrifying because these things are happening…”

Black Code is a documentary about governments doing these morally unethical surveillance practices on their people, asking the question of what does it mean to be a private citizen in the internet age, and focusing on the way the internet can help mobilize activists for free speech. Throughout this exhaustively researched movie, there are interviews with persecuted Tibetan monks, who are wanted by the Chinese government. One of the monks uses seven different cell phones because if you call certain places or people from one number too often, it can get blacklisted. The filmmakers talk to activists fighting against the corrupt Brazilian police and how they ended up using a Japanese social media, Twitcasting, to live stream and instantly post to twitter videos of their rallies and protests. They discuss internet law and whether or not some degree of secrecy is necessary to ensure a functioning government body with lawyers and officials.

Recapping the events of the movie might do it a bit of a disservice. The above paragraph fails to get across the stunning energy which director Nicholas de Pencier brings to the film. It is clear that these issues are close to his heart and he brings a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Utilizing a variety of styles from talking head interviews, to onscreen text recreations of email conversations, to use of actual footage from various events, and everything in-between the movie is visually pleasing. The editing brings forth several intense moments and sets a frantic pace which never lets up.

Black Code pulls back the curtain of awful government intrusion in very immediate terms. Genuinely terrifying, because these things are happening to regular citizens all over the world, it comes from the heart and seeks ways to end this madness. Let’s all hope they figure out how.

Black Code (2016) Directed by Nicholas de Pencier. Starring Ron Deibert, Felipe Altenfeldor, Wjd Dhnie, Jon Karlung, Felipe Pechana.

Grade: A

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