SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! It’s really hard to give a description of All Light, Everywhere that fits its character, beauty, and originality. It also doesn’t help that the documentary isn’t particularly about one thing. It has layers upon layers, and that’s part of the reason why it’s so amazing. It makes it really hard to review, however, because I’m afraid the words I write will in no way measure up to the genius possessed by director Theo Anthony. He made this multi-tiered film about what we see, how we see, and how often our eyes (and other things that see) deceive us.
All Light, Everywhere takes place in a few different locations across the country, but let’s start in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is where the headquarters of Axon (formerly known as Taser) is located. Axon is the company that invented the taser as well as the police body camera. A higher-up at the company gives us a tour of the whole facility that is broken up into segments throughout the film. Then we’re taken to a Baltimore Police Department conference room where a group of officers is attending a seminar about the new Axon body cameras they’re about to receive. Another location is a Baltimore community board meeting where Ross McNutt, the founder of Persistent Surveillance Systems, is trying to sell his aerial surveillance system to the city to help deter crime. He has an airplane that has a “Google Earth” like camera, except it records live.
What director Anthony does with all this information and so much more is show us the natural biases that occur through sight. As well as through the different inventions we have created throughout time to aid our sight. Such as cameras and inventions that predated them and came after. There is a literal blind spot in everyone’s eye that we are told about, and the rest of the film talks about the cultural and other blind spots in American society.
“….multi-tiered film about what we see, how we see, and how often our eyes deceive us.”
For example, we find out that the police body cameras can only show things that happen to the officer, not necessarily things that the officer does to other people. They can decide when a file is saved to be used for evidence. The surveillance plane also has its literal and metaphorical blind spots as well. There is also a focus group that looks at a series of images and tell the crew whether or not they built a narrative in their mind. It’s kind of a trick question because our mind and sight work together to build narratives out of things we see naturally. However, everyone’s literal and metaphorical point of view is subjective and can be manipulated.
That is just a brief plot synopsis and does not convey how awesome and truly magical All Light, Everywhere is. The score by Dan Deacon, which is pop-noise at its best, highlights the trippy nature of what we’re learning about. There is a narrator that tells us she is the narrator (Keaver Brenai), which is just one example of how self-aware it all is. There’s a really cool scene at the end where a series of composite photos start singing the Dan Deacon song that plays through the credits. Oh, that’s another thing we learn about—the creation of the composite sketch! There are many, many other cool discoveries made throughout history that are highlighted.
Basically, I have never seen a documentary that was this mind-bending. It contains so much information that I want to watch it again so I could commit it to memory. The best thing about All Light, Everywhere is how it truly encompasses all things having to do with sight and how it can be manipulated. More importantly, it makes us aware of the manipulations to where we might be more conscious of our surroundings and the things we encounter visually on a daily basis. I think that’s very important work, and I’m pretty sure if you watch the film, you will agree.
All Light Everywhere premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
"…awesome and truly magical..."