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"Some films go deep," filmmaker Tiffany Shlain said at the premiere of her new Sundance documentary, Connected. "Mine goes wide." Indeed, Shlain's film does go wide -- it's like a rubber band stretching in multiple directions while not breaking. Examining the ways in which technology can productively unite our global citizenry, Connected details nothing less than the history of consciousness and its arrival within today's always-on, hyper-wired mind. Through voiceover narration and breezy montage, Connected explores the right brain/left brain split and its effect on social and economic organization, and it highlights the transformative potential of today's communication tools. As a modern-day David Hume might argue, the film thoughtfully and entertainingly proposes that the Internet's power to spread knowledge and experience can create a worldwide community capable of embracing the goals needed to sustain ourselves and our planet. Connected wants you to use your handheld connective devices for good -- social improvement that even includes better conditions for the workers along the supply chains in China that produce these same devices.

Wide or deep -- Shlain's formulation is an interesting way to consider documentaries. While watching a variety of docs at Sundance, I noticed that most did try to do one or the other. Danfung Dennis' To Hell and Back, for example, goes deep into the life and mind of a soldier wounded in Afghanistan, showing us with the best Canon 5D cinematography I've ever seen the scarring memories that will shape his political worldview forever. In telling "a story of the Earth Liberation Front," Marshall Curry's If a Tree Falls goes deep into radical environmental activism but also a bit wide as it turns into a critique of our judicial system's expanding definition of the word "terrorism." Yoav Potash's Crime after Crime is another deep movie -- it tells the story of Deborah Peagler, the victim of overprosecution for the murder of her abusive husband, expanding her tale to look at states that don't allow for the consideration of spousal abuse in sentencing and parole. Perhaps the "deepest" doc I saw is not a social-issue one but a tale of wayward fandom, Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure. In Matthew Bate's film, two San Francisco apartment dweller's audio taping of a pair of bickering male neighbors launches a decades-long obsession that gathers fans from around the world. Out of material that would cause most of us to stick cotton in our ears, Bate traces a 1990s viral phenomenon that has just as many unexpected plot twists and character drama as the later one depicted in The Social Network.

More on the deep and the wide as we wrap up Sundance this weekend and early next week.

Scott Macaulay

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In the blog, our final Sundance volunteer video, co-produced by Kenneth Cole, and Brandon Harris highlights titles out of Slamdance (including Grand Jury prize-winner Stranger Things, pictured left).

To read more posts from our blog, click here.


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