Dir. Marianne Trench, 1990
USA. 60 min.
FRIDAY, MAY 6 – 10:00 PM
MONDAY, MAY 16 – 10:00 PM
TUESDAY, MAY 24 – 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, MAY 29 – 5:00 PM
PURCHASE TICKETS HERE brownpapertickets.com/event/2546299
Itself an artifact of the time and aesthetic being documented, CYBERPUNK is a fun, highly stylized sampler capturing its eponymous subculture still coalescing. Featuring interviews with William Gibson, Timothy Leary, founder of VPL Research/inventor of the Data Glove Jason Lanier, and encompassing musicians, animators, plastic surgeons, crafters, and self-proclaimed hackers, the movie shows and tells simultaneously with talking-head interviews overlaid and interspersed with then-cutting-edge CG animation and graphic effects. Reflecting the range of its subjects’ motivations, sometimes this is practical, masking coders casually chatting about illegal data access, and sometimes it’s purely for visual flair.
The documentary’s timing places it at a unique juncture – there’s talk of phone phreaking, VR potential and research, body modification, warez trading, database hacking, but no concrete mention of the internet as we know and use it today. AOL for DOS was released February 1991, Windows in 1992; CYBERPUNK just missed the radical breakthrough that was readily accessible dial-up, existing in a world where text-based intranets with node points were the closest equivalent. Of all people it’s a computer theorist outlining the blind spot most clearly; speaking to the (assumed) main fear of technology being how small and powerless it makes the average person feel and citing the military-industrial complex as example, the idea of complete personal connectivity and power doesn’t even occur. And yet the possibility is present in the film – one hacker tells how a 14-year-old poking around an AT&T database for kicks had the FBI knocking on his door after he’d inadvertently nudged a satellite out of orbit. In a present with unlimited texting on readily available handheld computers, it’s tempting to giggle at one hacker bragging “I make free phone calls…everywhere. You name it…Europe, Asia…..The United States…”, but hindsight’s 20/20 – CYBERPUNK is a snapshot of those excited for a future they nearly saw coming.