Despite numerous countries fighting for their freedoms, there are many entities today that exemplify autonomy. British documentarian Ivo Gormley’s new documentary “Us Now” explores various real examples of self-government around the globe. The film is available to view now on SnagFilms (and below).
What it’s really about: “In a world in which information is like air, what happens to power? ‘Us Now’ is a documentary film project about the power of mass collaboration, government and the Internet. It is a description of a world going through the greatest social change since the invention of the printing press. ‘Us Now’ tells the stories of online networks that are challenging the existing notion of hierarchy. For the first time, it brings together the fore-most thinkers in the field of collaborative governance to describe the future of government. ‘Us Now’ takes a look at how the internet could allow us to do away with politicians and run the government ourselves. It tells the stories of the online networks whose radical self-organising structures threaten to change the fabric of government for ever. If distributed networks of people can run complex organisations such as football clubs, what else can they do? ‘Us Now’ follows the fate of Ebbsfleet United; a football club owned and run by its fans, Zopa; a bank in which everyone is the manager, and Couch surfing; a vast online network whose members share their homes with strangers. The founding principals of these projects; transparancy, self-selection, open-participation, are coming closer and closer to the mainstream of our social and political lives. ‘Us Now’ describes this transition and confronts politicians George Osborne and Ed Milliband with the possibilities for collaborative government as described by Don Tapscott and Clay Shirky amongst others.
On the influence of anthropology: “I studied anthropology and always took photos. So travelling around and documenting things was always what I did, I started filming things with my dad’s video camera as soon as I could andstarted editing things together when I was about 17. In those days we could only fit about 10mins of SD footage on the computer. But it felt amazingly exciting to be able to manipulate the footage and then spit it back out on to DV tape. I like being able to go to a place explore it for the first time with the video camera, the camera almost justifying your strange questions and presence in some situations, and then to be able to have a document of it that you can show the rest of the world.”
What inspired you to make this film? “I felt like I was from a generation that was taught about how socialism had failed, but was witnessing the failure of global capitalism to allocate resources effectively. It seemed there was no credible ideology available to me. The first time I saw Wikipedia I was utterly amazed. It seemed to me to be proof of human’s ability to collaborate through disagreement, across geographical boundaries, without financial incentive and without a rigid hierarchy. It seemed like we weren’t using this technology, or anything vaguely similar in the most powerful structures that govern our lives. I wanted to explore this.”
His outside influences: “We tried to look at big films about ideas: Adam Curtis has been influential on me structurally rather than stylistically. We watched lots of films that had Philip Glass soundtracks and said important things with text on screen. Some of it rubbed off and with some of it we tried to do our own thing.”
On the challenge of the idea of the film: “This was essentially a film about power structures, these are essentially invisible, so it was hard to work out how to film them in the way that wasn’t really boring. We got really lucky with the football team and happened to film one of the most amazing matches I’ve ever seen.”
What do you think SnagFilms audiences will respond to most in your movie? “Hopefully the sense of optimism. Many films are polemics or about how everything’s going wrong in the world. Hopefully this is a credible argument for how we could all lead more fulfilling lives.”
What’s Next: “I’m making a film about the Kalash, a tribe of about 3000 who live in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan. They play a game of hockey with 200 people on a team and a 5 kilometre pitch. The losers sacrifice oxen and the winners become king. It’s a fascinating and beautiful place going through a lot of change. I’m excited about getting the film out there.”
[Full Disclosure: SnagFilms is the parent company of Indiewire.]