2015 March Film and Interactive


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3 2 S X S W o r l d | F I L M / I A M A R C H 2 0 1 5 | S X S W. C O M he internet is great, right? Almost all of us use it every day. I'm trying very hard right now to not use it as I'm writing. The internet can help you find out who was the voice of Shakespeare in The LEGO® Movie (MacGruber director, Jorma Taccone). It can even teach you how to make radish rosettes (make a series of slices down the top of the radish with a paring knife, soak in cold water for 15 min- utes until it blooms). But for all its many benefits, there remains a ugly and frightening side to the world wide web. In the upcoming Universal Pictures' found- footage horror film, Unfriended, a high-school girl is the subject of online bullying after a hard night of drinking. Embarrassed and depressed, the girl commits suicide. But, this is just a movie, and here the teenager returns as an online ghost, killing her tormentors as they Skype. "Revenge comes online," says the tagline. Writer and producer Nelson Greaves says that now is the perfect time for this type of movie: "Given the current landscape, it's not a stretch at all to imagine the internet as a place of darkness and evil." Unfriended is one of a handful of screenings at this year's SXSW Film Festival that examine the dark and sinister underbelly of the internet, where revenge, bullying, threats and murder aren't just the thing of horror movies. Not unlike Unfriended, Austin-native Lizzie Velasquez was surfing YouTube one day and found herself the focus of an upsetting video titled "The World's Ugliest Woman." That alone would be devas- tating to hear, but then there were the comments: "Monster." "You are very ugly." "Do the world a favor and put a gun in your head." Unlike Unfriended, Velasquez, who suffers from a rare and undi- agnosed syndrome, didn't seek revenge. Instead she became a successful motivational speaker and is currently lobbying Capitol Hill to pass the first ever federal anti-bullying bill. Her story (the subject of the documentary A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story) is remarkable and inspirational, but sadly it is all too familiar. Video game developer Brianna Wu was forced from her home in 2014 after her address was published on the internet by people who identified themselves as supporters of Gamergate, an online group involved in the debate about sexism and discrimination in video game culture. Wu received emails with images of mutilated dogs and began to receive brutally specific rape and death threats against her and her husband. This behavior is highlighted in GTFO, a new documentary that takes a closer look at the growing divide in the gaming community, while also examining motivations behind online harassment. Wu, and others faced with violent cyber-bullying online, have often met ignorance and skepticism when trying to report a crime against them. However in other cases, law enforcement aggressively pursues online criminals. On October 1, 2013, a half-dozen FBI agents swooped into the sci- ence fiction section of the Glen Park Branch of the San Francisco Public Library and arrested Ross William Ulbricht as he watched an episode of The Colbert Report. Ulbricht, a young entrepreneur who wouldn't look out of place at a tech meetup, was handcuffed and indicted on charges of money laundering, distribution of narcotics and running a criminal enterprise, with a separate charge of con- spiracy to commit murder. His story is the subject of Alex Winter's new documentary, Deep Web. At the time of his arrest, Ulbricht was logged into what the govern- ment alleged was his website, Silk Road, a virtual black market where you could buy anything from drugs to guns to hired killers. The FBI alleges Ulbricht was "Dread Pirate Roberts," the mysterious kingpin of this online criminal enterprise. Ulbricht would maintain his inno- cence. Winter's documentary, with exclusive access to Ulbricht's family, explores whether the FBI violated Fourth Amendment rights as they looked to bolster their case. It took a jury only three hours to convict Ulbricht on all seven charges, and he now faces life in prison. Even with Ulbricht's con- victions, which the government hoped would send a strong message to the burgeoning online underground, the landscape continues to grow darker. Those depths are being explored on television with the USA Network's new drama Mr. Robot, which follows a young pro- grammer living a dual life as a cyber-security engineer by day, and a vigilante hacker at night. While Ulbricht allegedly threatened violence over drugs, money and power, countless others are threatening violence over something much simpler, like video games. It is hard to imagine anyone getting that worked up over Super Mario Bros., yet it's one of several fright- ening realities for many online, something conveyed by the films. It may seem easy to blame the internet for these ills, but as Greaves notes, "It's not the technology that's the problem. It's the people. There have always been bad people, and now it's what bad people are doing with good technology." For complete screening information on these and other SXSW 2015 films, see or the SXSW GO app. New Films Explore the Internet's Darker Corners by Mike SaMpSon T Unfriended U N I V E R S A L P I C T U R E S

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