Smartly, however, Code & Response doesn’t spend a lot of time focusing on the act of programming itself. Rather, Peck dedicates much of the film to profiling places (e.g. South Carolina, Indonesia) that have recently been devastated by natural disasters (e.g. Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Florence). It’s an indirect and ultimately effective way of conveying the real-world significance of these programmers’ work: we realize that their apps, drones, and machines will all help mitigate the suffering and destruction we see on screen.
Code & Response, in short, does a good job of communicating the value of programming without being monotonous. That said, a couple of things got in the way of my appreciation for this film. Like a fair number of documentary filmmakers, on the one hand, Peck feels the need to try and end the film on a wholly positive note. His desire to uplift the viewer is understandable, but the conclusion’s almost forced positivity simply doesn’t fit with the rest of the film, which largely plays as a sobering examination of our helplessness in the face of nature.
“An antidote to this pessimism, Peck shows that technology can be very useful in at least one area: disaster response.”
The other problem with Code & Response stems from how it portrays several of its programmers. For instance, Peck’s depiction of the Japanese programmer carries traces of exoticism. Additionally, the film’s portrayal of the one female programmer in the group feels ever so slightly sexist, focusing on personal, “relatable” details (e.g. her morning yoga routine) that you don’t really find in the more professional profiles of the other programmers.
Still, flaws and all, Code & Response is a worthwhile film. Like every good documentary, it exposes you to interesting people and stories that you very likely wouldn’t have learned about otherwise. And since we live in a society that’s rife with scientific illiteracy, the film also deserves praise for its efforts to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public. I’m glad I watched it.
"…exposes you to interesting people and stories that you wouldn’t have learned about otherwise."