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‘The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution’ Review: A Punchy Primer on the Intersection of the Internet, Finance and Extremism

Ondi Timoner’s documentary The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution absolutely doesn’t lack for ambition. 

In a jam-packed 102 minutes, The New Americans goals to elucidate a string of latest Internet-fueled monetary misadventures; to considerably replace the meditations on Internet-connected communities and on-line social anxiousness that had been a part of her acclaimed 2009 movie We Live in Public; and to hyperlink these issues to a toxicity that culminated within the chaos of January 6, 2021.

The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution

The Bottom Line

An energetically superficial explainer.

Venue: SXSW Film Festival (Documentary Spotlight)
Director: Ondi Timoner

1 hour 42 minutes

The New Americans takes a meme-ified method to understanding the meme-ified intersection of on-line tradition, the monetary sector and the rise of various strains of extremism. But like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox, the connection between the documentary and the knowledge it’s trying to elucidate turns into a blur.  

The movie desires to separate the sign from the noise within the public discourse, nevertheless it’s so enamored with the sensory insanity that it simply turns into extra cacophony.

If We Live in Public instructed the story of artists who believed that the Internet and the personalities it amplified had the potential to ship one thing actual, uncovered and intimate, The New Americans picks up at a second when artifice reigns. A contemporary gang of Merry Pranksters has taken on the mantle of the counterculture, focusing on the identical corrupt and failing establishments — Wall Street! Government! Whatever older era simply doesn’t perceive! — as strains of cogent ideology get appropriated by the extremes of the acute, shedding which means and shedding the message till we’re left with the Manson Family or, in 2023, in all probability an NFT of the Manson Family.

It looks like each week final yr noticed the discharge of a unique restricted collection or documentary giving a cursory overview of a unique occasion of misadventure and even fraud, normally with an internet backdrop. WeWork! Theranos! Uber! I’m guessing that inside a yr, the subject material in The New Americans could have been spun off into dozens of comparable tasks, doubtlessly dealing with the matters with extra depth and coherence, if maybe much less aptitude. GameStop! NFTs! Crypto! 

Yes, I do know this evaluate accommodates lots of exclamation factors. But The New Americans is an exclamation level form of film. It digs deep into YouTube feedback and subreddits, pulling out the doctored film clips — 300! World War Z! The Matrix! — and popularized animated characters that kind a vernacular for a younger era that has, maturing by the 2008 monetary disaster and the 2016 and 2020 elections, come to mistrust not simply authority, however legitimacy. 

There’s a big hole, although, between understanding the language of the memes and understanding precise occasions and points that birthed them. The New Americans solely achieves the simpler first process, regardless of a gentle peppering of speaking heads starting from varied Gen Z retail traders to mature and revered authorities like — checks notes — Anthony Scaramucci and Jordan Belfort. Here, I actually don’t know whether or not Timoner is definitely utilizing Scaramucci and Belfort as voices of purpose or for example that, in a disaster through which the Scaramuccis and Belforts can fill a “voice of reason” position, we’re all completely fucked. It appears like the previous, as a result of they’re handled with a veneer of respectability and maturity; if it’s the latter, I concern Timoner is likely to be delivering the satire with an excessive amount of of a straight face.

The most cheap response to The New Americans is someplace between confusion and despair. To struggle the confusion, Timoner regularly interrupts her stream by having varied digital guides defining buzzwords like “blockchain” and “discord,” thereby guaranteeing that anyone who’s a part of the communities featured on this documentary will discover the entire affair woefully sq.. To struggle the bleakness? There’s little or no right here to do this. 

Although The New Americans is aware of precisely who the enemies are, heroes are few and much between. Maybe it’s anyone like Shepard Fairey, utilizing NFTs and crypto each for advocacy and to supply assist in locations like Ukraine. Mostly the documentary’s heroes, although, are simply victims themselves or folks on the verge of being victims — just like the dogecoin investor who watched his private fortune plummet on account of jokes on the Elon Musk-hosted Saturday Night Live or the assorted outdated cash traders, all shot in stuffy and opulent environment, whose contempt for the Young Turks make them fully unattainable to sympathize with. It’s as if the dinosaurs had been decimated by a GIF from Baby Driver as a substitute of an asteroid. 

For the most effective of those folks, upending monetary markets, undermining currencies and making a fast fortune is an intense lark, the product of corporations like Robinhood that gamified an advanced world of commerce and flouted a scarcity of regulation. For the worst of those folks, the chance to lift real-world stakes in a digital house hidden behind foolish usernames and sillier avatars goes hand-in-hand with the spreading of false or inaccurate info, jeopardizing apparently antiquated ideas like “truth” and contributing to the power of January 6, if not the literal rebellion. 

Timoner is large at connecting broadly separated dots, however much less good at articulating precisely what number of smaller dots exist between these two factors. The New Americans is typically a blast to look at. Its power by no means flags. But if I’m going to wish 5 or 10 extra documentaries to make sense of the documentary purporting to make enough sense of recent life, my power gained’t be almost as boundless.



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