Continuing my spotlight on this year’s World Cinema Documentary Competition: From the UK/Spain, Ben Lewis’ GOOGLE AND THE WORLD BRAIN, about the international controversy behind the Internet giant’s quest to copy the world’s books.
Sundance Program Description:
The goal of accumulating all human knowledge in one repository has been a dream since ancient times. Only recently, however, has that dream become a reality. Quietly and behind closed doors, Google has been executing a project to scan and digitize every printed word on the planet. Working with the world’s most prestigious libraries, the webmasters are reinventing the limits of copyright in the name of free access to anyone, anywhere. What can possibly be wrong with this picture?
As GOOGLE AND THE WORLD BRAIN reveals, a whole lot. Some argue that Google’s actions represent aggressive theft on an enormous scale, others see them as an attempt to monopolize our shared cultural heritage, and still others view the project as an attempt to flatten our minds by consolidating complex ideas into searchable “extra long tweets.” At first slowly, and then with intensifying conviction, a diverse coalition mobilizes to stop the fulfillment of this ambitious dream. Incisive and riveting as it uncovers a high-stakes multinational heist, Ben Lewis’ film voices an important alternative to the technological utopianism of our time.
Lewis has been directing and producing non-fiction for television for over a decade, with past projects screening on the international festival circuit at notable events such as Hot Docs and IDFA. His most recent project, POOR US: AN ANIMATED HISTORY OF POVERTY, is part of the acclaimed WHY POVERTY? series.
Why You Should Watch:
Lewis takes what at first appears to be a fairly simple issue and expertly untangles a complex knot of underlying concerns and motivations. The result is a fascinating consideration of technology’s potential, and of Google’s ultimate aspirations, as they come up against the practical and legal limits placed on our desire to have everything available at our fingertips.
View the film’s trailer on Vimeo. For more information, check out the doc’s website and Facebook page. For Lewis’ thoughts on the doc, check out his Indiewire interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.