Hot Docs Review: We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [Brian Knappenberger, 93 minutes, USA, 2012]

The following review is written by our friend and fellow documentary lover Joe from Mechanical Forest Sound, check out his blog for Hot Doc reviews, exceptional live recording and probably a helluva lot more thought out writings

A talking heads documentary about people in masks may not be a compelling recipe for an engaging feature. And, indeed, at the outset, I was dubious that I was going to enjoy — or learn anything — from this film. Static interviews alternating with a lot of fast-cutting montages, at first I thought this was going to just be like an extended Nightline feature. It manages in the end to mostly transcend that as the momentum of its story builds up.

Getting swept up in the moment it’s capturing, We Are Legion is definitely sympathetic towards the hacktivists it portrays. The trade-off of close access to some key players in the story comes, to some extent, at the expense of asking some hard questions. (Though with respect to the latter, McGill professor Gabriella Coleman comes off as articulate and cogent while keeping an eye on the larger issues.)

The film-makers, meanwhile, seem content with D&D-esque explanations that the amorphous “movement” can be seen as more chaotic than inherently good or bad, while not calling to task the elements that are willing to cause all sorts of trouble (to individuals, and not the corporations they claim to detest) in the name of “lulz” (or, as we called them back in my day, “kicks”). And in the end, there’s probably more to be said about how the Anonymous phenomenon is feeding into larger social uprisings (such as Occupy), and, ultimately, how this fits into the broader historical anti-capitalist struggle.

Zeitgeist-y and worth seeing, though this isn’t the sort of thing I’d necessarily recommend going out of one’s way to see on the big screen during Hot Docs. It would look better seen on TV — or, perhaps appropriately, in a window on one’s computer screen nestled in amongst all the other data flowing through your life.

Screens: Tue, May 1 6:15 PM @ Bloor; Thu, May 3, 3:00 PM @ TIFF Lightbox 1; Sat, May 5, 7:00 PM @ TIFF Lightbox 1)

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs

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Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.