Alice Lenay’s documentary Dear Hacker is an entertaining and compelling look at humanity’s relationship with technology, be it emotionally or spiritually. Sadly it hinders itself by running just too far short of expanding on the premise and thus feels stifled fully.
One day filmmaker Alice Lenay’s webcam lit up in front of her, and before she could even grasp what had happened, it had gone off. Had someone hacked her computer and caught a glimpse of her? Was it just a bug? In her investigation documentary, she makes a point to find out.
Dear Hacker is an interesting look at a modern world, all the more so due to current times where we have to be present on our computers for a large portion of the day. Yet, the documentary never really compels, as it doesn’t say enough. Perhaps this is due to the relatively short conversations that Lenay has with her friends and experts, but never diving deeper than just offering opinions like a glitching screen causes us to struggle with the message being presented.
Lenay moves away from the idea that it could be a hacker and veers towards the supernatural before thinking it is more about connection. A meaningful discussion shows this as we see her conversations and the lack of connection, be it the glitches, audio issues etc. We can see and hear a person communicating with us, but they don’t seem as real without them being in front of us in person. Lenay states that the connection she feels is, for example, with her webcam’s green light, letting her know something is real and happening. If we are just on a monitor, do we even exist?
The lack of sensory information is as prevalent as it has ever been. Sitting here watching online screeners and working from home, communicating with other staff online, there is a proper disconnect from people, and for some, this has been the case for almost 18 months. Do we even present our true selves when online via webcam or microphone? All wonderful thoughts, and again, it is a very interesting topic, which has legs to be expanded into a very in-depth piece. It is just a shame that Lenay didn’t do that here, as it was ready-made for something more substantial to be given.
As Lenay ventures her journey into wondering what caused her webcam to go rogue, she takes quite an abstract thought process, what if the webcam or computer was an entity? She ponders the concept that a supernatural presence is afoot and this entity is there and the chance that it might be trying to make her aware of its existence. Again, Dear Hacker takes so many turns that it needs a bit more time to flesh it out.
Lenay’s subjects are as fascinating as Lenay herself as they describe their philosophies. Their discussions can toe the line between being informative enough while remaining entertaining, and it does leave you thinking. What if our computers or phones or any decent piece of technology was an entity? How would we react with that, and do we at this time have a stronger relationship with our screens than we do with others? Especially so considering the current climate during the past year and a half.
Dear Hacker allows Lenay to ask questions to pass those questions on to her audience. The world is getting smaller and smaller every day. I am currently sitting in Belfast reviewing a film that should have only been shown in Montreal. We can talk to someone from almost any country via a webcam, yet due to what we have experienced recently, we have possibly never been further from others in modern times. A documentary that is very much well worth your time.
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