We Live in Public (USA; 90 min.)


directed by: Ondi Timoner
documentary
We Live in Public
 

Michael says: "I was a big fan of Ondi Timoner’s documentary DiG! from a few years ago, so I was intrigued to see what her next project was like.  WE LIVE IN PUBLIC explores the increasingly blurry line between public and private with a ten years in the making documentary about Josh Harris, a dot-commer, who in the 90s, made millions with chat software and streaming video before they were ubiquitous.  Harris started Pseudo, the first web entertainment channel, then took the money he made from that successful venture and plowed it into a series of 'art' projects that forced people into close living quarter, where their every move was videotaped and they sacrificed their individual rights to privacy in exchange for free food, free booze, a tiny cubicle to sleep in, and a way to feed their narcissism in a Big Brother-like complex called Quiet.  After Quiet self-destructed, Harris and his then-girlfriend, moved in together, wired their home with multiple cameras (including one in the toilet pointing up) and began to broadcast their complete lives at weliveinpublic.com. By the time this project ran its course, Harris dropped from sight, yet if we look around today, it seems that some of his predictions have partially come true, with many people living much of their lives on the web in social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

"WE LIVE IN PUBLIC strongly struck a negative chord with me, the same way reality TV and celebrity for the sake of celebrity do, and at first I was confusing the negative feelings the film aroused within me with my thoughts about the film.  I’m still not sure how much I liked the film (I did check my clock partway through, something I never do, and found that only an hour had passed despite feeling like two had gone by), but I definitely know that it’s still resonating with me a day later, and I’m starting to be able to separate my distaste for the subject of the film from the film itself.  Most interesting to me was the fact that Timoner had incredible access to the reclusive, solitary Harris, and it even seems they shared a friendship, and she calls him visionary at one point; yet the film paints him clearly (at least to me) as a freak.  It’s an interesting paradox.  I can say one thing, seeing WE LIVE IN PUBLIC made me start to rethink some of my online activities in social networks.  It will be interesting to see how I feel about Timoner’s challenging, if nothing else, documentary in a week.  3 cats."

 
Thon says: "Another Chlotrudis Screener winner, this one an eye-opening documentary. It tells the story of dot.com genius, superstar Josh Harris, who is billed as 'the greatest Internet pioneer you've never heard of.' He was a narrow-minded futurist, who felt he saw the potential of mankind as total media beings, certainly more than he could see his own life. He created Pseudo.com which he sold for $80 million circa 1990. With the money he had made he decided to spearhead a project named Quiet: He gathered 100 people that he interviewed to live in small cubicles 24 hours a day in a yawning space below street level. Every single one of the participants would be under video surveillance every moment of their lives. After Quiet disintegrated in a Tower of Babel-like uproar Harris and his wife he had met during Quiet moved into a living space where they would be taped 100% of the time. This was long before Facebook & other new developments. This venture also backfired big time. The doc then goes on to show us what has gone on in his life since he lost the spotlight. Even though he’s super-creepy, he certainly foresaw much of what was to come and the story is endlessly fascinating and outrageous. This film one the Documentary Grand Jury prize at Sundance. 4 1/2 cats"
 
Diane says: "I'm watching a video of this guy and his girlfriend sleeping in bed at night--with the special mic, you can even hear a whisper--and I can only think: when is the demon going to come through the door?

"Fortunately, this couple had an open plan living space, so it wasn't as much of a threat. But the camera does bring destruction, sucking love out of the relationship, as the gf later says of the experiment. The guy is Josh Harris, who was obsessed with how constant surveillance changes those surveilled and those who watch. He had
enough emotional problems to let himself be a guinea pig, and enough of a fascist inclination to enslave others to the concept, too. I wish Harris had had friends who were willing to say, 'Josh, this is a bad idea.' The fact that he was really rich made that unlikely.

"Glad to come across another docu to nominate. The editing, graphics, sound, music, etc. of WE LIVE IN PUBLIC all support its central story--a techno visionary's misguided search for intimacy. Filmmaker Timoner cuts in a lot of stock footage, but so quickly and inventively that I can't complain. She offers a couple of frames to understand Harris, including his relationship with his mother, but I preferred the 'Gilligan' obsession. (The flashes of Gilligan's tomato red shirt remind me of BROKEN EMBRACES.) 4 cats."