When a documentary fails to present its subjects' views with cogency, is it the filmmakers' fault for not explaining things well? Or is it the subjects' fault for holding views that don't stand up well to scrutiny?
I'm willing to give filmmaker Adam Bhala Lough the benefit of the doubt on this one, because the millennial outcasts he profiles in "The New Radical" don't present their extreme views with a lot of clarity.
The focus is on two self-proclaimed anarchists on the fringes of the Internet.
One is Cody Wilson, an Arkansas native who drew federal attention with the web enterprise Defense Distributed, through which he offers up the digital code that will let someone make a plastic gun using a 3-d printer. The other is Amir Taaki, born in Great Britain of Pakistani heritage, who was one of the early proponents of the online currency Bitcoin.
Together, Wilson and Taaki created a project called Dark Wallet, a way to make anonymous financial transactions usually for shady purposes.
Lough lets both young men spout their philosophies of an internet that avoids and even supersedes governments, a Wild West where anything goes including selling heroin or distributing unregistered firearms. They both worship at the altar of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is interviewed here as well.
Broken into chapters with some visually busy graphics, the story of Wilson and Taaki is intercut with frenetic montages of recent history: The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, Charleston and Aurora, Colo.; Hillary Clinton's email troubles, and the rise to power of Donald Trump.
Lough gives these guys every chance, through current conversations and archival footage, to mount a case for their anti-government beliefs. It speaks volumes about the confused politics of these lads, so savvy in computers and ignorant about the real world, that they rooted for and are scared green by Trump's presidency.
– Sean P. Means
"The New Radical" screens again at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival at the following times and venues:
• Thursday, Jan. 26, 7 p.m., Redstone Cinema 2, Park City
• Friday, Jan. 27, 9 a.m., Library Center Theatre, Park City
• Saturday, January 28, noon, Salt Lake City Library Theatre