We Live in Public Review

Release Date (UK) –13 November 2009
Certificate (UK) – 15
Country – USA
Director – Ondi Timoner
Runtime – 90 mins

We Live in Public was the name of one of internet entrepreneur Josh Harris many projects. This documentary film starts off as an interesting look at the rise of the internet in general and Josh’s various projects such as the Pseudo network. Josh had a knack for predicting where and how the internet would develop and the Pseudo network was an online TV station with various channels and chat rooms, almost too ahead of its time as internet speeds were not really fast enough to host it well enough. Although he made a lot of money he wasted it away on more abstract art and film projects (the film introduces him as the greatest internet pioneer you’ve never heard of) and it soon emerges that this film is much more of a study of Josh’s behaviour and motivations.

The main bulk of the film covers Josh’s Quiet project – already seeing into the future in 1999 he was convinced that one day all of our lives will be filmed and we will communicate via video. So underground in New York he set up a kind of bunker for a group of volunteers to live in for a month. Every millimetre of space was covered by cameras and each bunker had its own TV screen where participants could watch what was going on elsewhere. The participants were given extreme freedom, free food drink and drugs and oddly even a shooting rage downstairs. However there was a darker side to the project participants were also subject to intrusive interrogations by psychologists and it soon emerges Josh is more interested by an almost power-freak urge that motivates him.

The project was shut down by the New York fire department and his next project was We Live in Public, when he took Quiet to a new level putting video cameras in his own home to broadcast every moment of his life and relationship with girlfriend Tania and discussing it with watchers online in chatrooms. Josh is obviously very intelligent, but hampered by his obsession with being famous. The film includes interviews with Josh’s family as it begins to suggest Josh is so attention seeking as he felt rejected by his mother. Whatever his reasons he comes across as a very confused person and although the documentaries subject is interesting and thought provoking in terms of the internets development today Josh often comes across as arrogant and selfish so its very hard to identify or feel empathy for him. If you’re a retro nerd then you will enjoy the film (my inner geek loved remembering the good old days of 56k modems, old sites and software like Netscape) and for those not so interested in geekdom its a fascinating study of humanity and one mans struggle with the world away from the computer screen.

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