2020 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE SOCIAL DILEMMA

THE SOCIAL DILEMMA | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

THE SOCIAL DILEMMA
Jeff Orlowski exposes the insidious hidden systems of control behind our increasingly networked world.

Festival Section:
Documentary Premieres

Sundance Program Description:

Technology wizards have masterminded a new form of capitalism, and humanity is now the raw resource feeding the machine. Powerful, hidden artificial intelligence tasked with hijacking our attention is tearing apart social norms, jeopardizing truth and democracy, and putting civilization on a programmed path toward self-destruction.

Set in the dark underbelly of Silicon Valley, THE SOCIAL DILEMMA fuses investigative documentary with enlightening narrative drama – think AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH meets THE MATRIX. Expert testimony from tech whistle-blowers exposes our disturbing predicament: the services Big Tech provides – search engines, networks, instant information, et cetera – are merely the candy that lures us to bite. Once we’re hooked and coming back for more, the real commodity they sell is their prowess to influence and manipulate us.

Award-winning filmmaker and environmentalist Jeff Orlowski (CHASING ICE, 2012; CHASING CORAL, 2017) disrupts the disrupters by uncorking the invisible story purring from that mobile phone hidden in your pocket. Cunningly entertaining, THE SOCIAL DILEMMA sounds the alarm on surveillance capitalism in hopes of preserving the very fabric of our society before it’s too late.

Some Background:

Director/Writer:

  • Jeff Orlowski
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL
    CHASING CORAL: THE VR EXPERIENCE (2017, VR short)
    CHASING ICE

    This is Orlowski’s third documentary feature, which participated in Sundance Institute’s Catalyst Forum in 2018. He is also an executive producer of fellow 2020 Sundance doc SOME KIND OF HEAVEN, in the Next section. Both of his previous features have been shortlisted for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, won Emmys, and picked up awards at Sundance. Orlowski is the founder and director of Exposure Labs, which focuses on socially relevant projects.

Producer:

  • Larissa Rhodes
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL
    CHASING CORAL: THE VR EXPERIENCE

    Rhodes is an Emmy-winning producer and director of creative development at Exposure Labs.

Co-Producer:

Executive Producers:

  • Laurie David
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM (2019)
    306 HOLLYWOOD (2018)
    AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER (2017)
    FED UP (2014)
    AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (2006)

    David is an environmental activist, author, and producer.

  • Heather Reisman
    Past Sundance docs:

    FED UP

    Reisman is founder/CEO of Canada’s Indigo Books and Music and a philanthropist. Her foundation, the Gerald Schwartz & Heather Reisman Foundation, has made a major gift to the University of Toronto to construct an innovation center focused on AI and its interaction with the public.

  • David J Cornfield & Linda A Cornfield
    Past Sundance docs:

    WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? (2018)
    INVENTING TOMORROW (2018)
    AKICITA: THE BATTLE OF STANDING ROCK (2018)
    DARK MONEY (2018)
    CHASING CORAL: THE VR EXPERIENCE
    CHASING CORAL
    CHASING ICE

    The Cornfields are philanthropists and environmentalists supporting projects that offer innovative, pragmatic, and sustainable solutions to complex current problems. They also executive produced fellow 2020 Sundance doc feature A THOUSAND CUTS, in the US Documentary Competition.

  • Ryan Ahrens & Jill Ahrens
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL
    CHASING CORAL: THE VR EXPERIENCE

    The Ahrens are the principals and co-founders of Argent Pictures. They previously produced or executive produced Sundance alumni fiction features THE BIRTH OF A NATION and SELAH AND THE SPADES. Both have a background in real estate and law.

  • Ben Renzo

    Renzo is president/CEO of Argent Pictures and a managing partner of law firm Premier Family Office. He previously co-produced or executive produced THE BIRTH OF A NATION and SELAH AND THE SPADES.

  • Lynda Weinman
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE GREAT HACK (2019)
    HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING (2018)
    INVENTING TOMORROW
    CHASING CORAL
    CHASING CORAL: THE VR EXPERIENCE
    UNREST (2017)

    Weinman is a founder of the LinkedIn-acquired online software training website Lynda.com. She previously worked in animation and special effects for Hollywood studio films and taught digital media and graphics. Weinman also executive produced this year’s DISCLOSURE: TRANS LIVES ON SCREEN in Documentary Premieres, US KIDS in the US Documentary Competition, and THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.

  • Bruce Heavin
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL
    CHASING CORAL: THE VR EXPERIENCE

    Heavin is co-founder/former chief creative officer of Lynda.com, and an artist with a background in photography, illustration, and motion graphics.

  • Hallee Adelman

    Adelman is a children’s book author and teacher who is committed to bettering the lives of children and family through education, storytelling, and film. She also serves as executive producer on THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS and US KIDS.

  • Ivy Herman

    Herman is a philanthropist who has partnered with fellow executive producer Hallee Adelman to support film, television, and theatre projects with social impact or that serves children and families. She also executive produced THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS and US KIDS.

Co-Executive Producers:

  • Shannon O’Leary Joy
    Past Sundance docs:

    ANOTE’S ARK (2018)
    CHASING CORAL
    CHASING CORAL: THE VR EXPERIENCE

    Shannon O’Leary Joy is an environmentalist and philanthropist.

  • Lou Buglioli and Natalie Orfalea
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE INFILTRATORS

    Buglioli is the chairman/CEO of financial services and tech company Viewpointe. Orfalea is the founder and president of the Natalie Orfalea Foundation and a member of Impact Partners and Chicago Media Project. They have been investors in numerous past Sundance titles. Buglioli is also a co-executive producer of 2020 Sundance title FEELS GOOD MAN, in the US Documentary Competition.

  • Ken Grossinger & Micheline Klagsbrun

    Grossinger is a principal for strategic consulting firm Democracy Partners, where he leads the impact philanthropy and donor advising division. Klagsburn is co-founder (with husband Grossinger) and president of the CrossCurrents Foundation, which focuses on civic engagement, environmental concerns, human rights, and the arts, and previously funded Sundance doc alumni DARK MONEY.

  • David Stone & David Boies III
    Past Sundance docs:

    WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

    Stone and Boies are attorneys who also previously executive produced Sundance alumni fiction feature NIGHT COMES ON.

Writer:

  • Vickie Curtis
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL

    Curtis is part of the team at Orlowski’s Exposure Labs.

Editor/Writer:

  • Davis Coombe
    Past Sundance docs:

    CASTING JONBENET (2017)
    CHASING CORAL
    BEING EVEL
    CHASING ICE

Why You Should Watch:
If Orlowski wasn’t drawing on the expertise of high-level, tech world insiders – individuals who have held key positions at Facebook, YouTube, Google, Twitter, etc – skeptics might consider this cautionary tale a work of conspiracy fiction. All the more disturbing because it is true, his latest film is a provocative wake up call about just how much of ourselves we’ve already ceded to technology.

More Info:
Website
Facebook

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations

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