Hot Docs Review: Time Bomb Y2K (Marley McDonald and Brian Becker, 2023)

In a Q&A following Saturday night’s screening of Time Bomb Y2K, Peter de Jager commented that while he’s appeared before in other documentaries on the Y2K bug and surrounding issues, Time Bomb Y2K is the first one for which he’s ever chosen to appear onstage alongside the directors. He attributes this to the fact that, in his eyes, this film is the first one to perfectly capture the zeitgeist of Y2K. It’s a zeitgeist that is all too familiar today, with eerie parallels emerging between the end of the 20th Century and modern times.

The film, directed by Marley McDonald and Brian Becker, is made up entirely of archival footage from the time, taken from a variety of sources, everything from news coverage (the directors noted that, though they were telling the story from a mostly American perspective, they found that CBC news often had better coverage) to home videos to relevant clips from popular film and TV of the day.

Through it all, de Jager is the closest thing we get to a protagonist, with the film returning to footage of the Canadian computer engineer as he continues to spread the word about the dangers of ignoring Y2K, even as he is accused by some of profiting off of Y2K paranoia.

Paranoia and fear are, of course, a throughline in the film’s depiction of the years leading up to the year 2000. And while the film’s tone often takes a look at the lighter side of it all, the footage of militia/prepper/conspiracy types and those who were in fact working to spread misinformation and fear is also at times both sad and a little scary. For instance, there’s a clip of Jack Van Impe shown on screen at one point which really drives home how utterly insane some of these Y2K theories were. And also reminds one how similar conspiracy theories continue to thrive today.

Ultimately, Time Bomb Y2K is a compelling look at a moment in human history that serves as both a walk down memory lane for those who lived through it and a solid introduction for those who weren’t there. Plus, it features footage of Kenny G playing “Auld Lang Syne” to ring in the new millennium and any film that features Kenny G in a big climactic scene is alright in my books.

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs