Heard the one about the GPS maker who showed drivers where to drive fast and then sold the data to traffic cops? It’s no joke — this happened in the Netherlands. If you believe the privacy promises of online giants like Google and Facebook, then Cullen Hoback’s doc will remove the scales from your eyes and your hand away from your mouse. Hoback cuts through thickets of boilerplate, the small print nobody reads while surfing, and discovers how few protections people have online. The situation is getting worse, making The Onion joke about Facebook being a covert CIA program seem all too true.
Documaker Cullen Hoback efficiently amps audience paranoia about the purposeful erosion of privacy in the digital age in “Terms and Conditions Apply,” a briskly cautionary and slickly packaged docu that could score some bookings in brick-and-mortar venues before wide dispersal on smallscreen platforms. Deftly balancing twin goals of informing and entertaining, the pic matter-of-factly details the various ways that marketers, multinational corporations, police departments and government-run intelligence-gathering organizations obtain and exploit info that people freely (and, more often than not, heedlessly) share and showcase via cell phones, websites and social media.
Fact Rubs Fiction Raw in Unsettling Triangulated Tale of Forbidden Love
Once upon a time there was a commercial for a company called Memorex in which jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald’s voice was employed to shatter a wine glass. The ad prompted viewers to ponder whether the flying shards were the result of Ella’s actual ear-splitting soprano hitting its highest register or of a faithful recording of it on high quality audiotape.
Just such a conundrum fuels the fires of Friction, the cinematic equivalent of that memorable Memorex classic. The film revolves around the love triangle which surfaces over the course of the summer at a camp in New Hampshire called Arts in Action when a vulnerable 15 year-old develops feelings for the wife of the director.
Director Cullen Hoback volunteers to teach at a summer performing arts camp. In return for teaching for free, Hoback is allowed to film his latest movie. He writes a script about characters based on the real staff and students of the camp and fabricated plot involving an affair between a married teacher and one of her students. As filming commences, the fiction in the script blends with reality…completely derailing Hoback’s film. What is eventually produced is Friction a film in which the intended narrative is seamlessly blended with an unintentional documentary, leaving audiences to wonder what is real and what is just a movie. Friction is the type of film Cinequest is made for: a cinematic experience so unique, there is nothing out there to compare it to. Friction was the best film I saw at the festival and the best I’ve seen all year. Keep an eye out for this one at festivals in your area or for a home video release in the future. It’s worth your time.
“Monster Camp,” a documentary from Portland-based filmmaker Cullen Hoback, is an unexpectedly sprightly experience. The film follows a group of Northwest practitioners of a rather unusual hobby. They love to LARP — live-action role playing — as lizard people, mysterious monsters and medieval-ish heroes and heroines.
“I didn’t die, which is a plus for me,” says a cheerful young man to the camera. Well, yes.
That brand of making-the-best-of-it optimism runs throughout Portland-based filmmaker Cullen Hoback’s documentary “Monster Camp,” making it an unexpectedly sprightly experience. First seen here at the 2007 Seattle International Film Festival, the film follows a group of Northwest practitioners of a rather unusual hobby. They love to LARP — live-action role playing; sort of like Dungeons and Dragons but on your feet (rather than sitting around with “potato chips and Mountain Dew,” as a disgruntled player describes it), outdoors in costume and makeup, under the guidance of a 200-page rule book.
Dweeby doesn’t begin to describe the bulk of the protagonists in “Monster Camp,” Cullen Hoback’s documentary about those attracted to a live-action event for fantasy role-players in Washington state. Nonetheless, they prove winning — and their pastime peculiarly fascinating — in this fun nonfiction feature. Pic is a guaranteed fest crowd-pleaser that could potentially attract arthouse play in the hands of a distrib savvy enough to court interest among gamers as well as cinematic curiosity-seekers.
Nero is a game licensed to regional organizers who hold monthly gatherings of the costumed faithful, with weekend-long events a few times a year. Heading up the Seattle chapter is Shane, an affable fellow verging on burnout — everyone wants to play, but few volunteer to help with the behind-scenes work, making his lot increasingly burdensome. There’s also the worry that his retirement from the post might spell an end to Nero Seattle, if no one else is willing to step up.