2019 Film Reviews – 49: The Great Hack [dir. Karim Amer & Jehane Noujaim; 2019]

I realise that various news sources have already covered the information this documentary presents about the activities of Cambridge Analytica (and if you’re not aware of the organisation, I suggest you look it up with delay), but Amer and Noujaim’s documentary encapsulates and presents it all in frighteningly compelling fashion. From the work of The Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr, to the not-unproblematic involvement of Christopher Wylie, the curious participation of Brittany Kasier and, of course, Analytica’s influence not just on Brexit and Trump’s victory, but on the fate of several countries around the world — it’s all in here. Staring us in the face. Challenging us to get up and take some action. As Cadwalladr so poignantly states, the social media tools that were originally designed to bring us together are now being used by unscrupulous individuals to tear us apart. We live in an environment where, to quote one example highlighted in The Great Hack, the political direction taken by a country can be determined by a cunning, targeted campaign designed to convince groups on one side of a political line that refusing to vote in an election is a ‘cool’ stance to take. A campaign whose real goal is, of course, to ensure that those on the other side of the line appear to have greater support at the polling stations. It’s sickening stuff — manipulation at its most cynical, invisible and efficient. But it’s happening all around us, each time we click on a Like or send a message or view a photo. And this documentary does well to alert us to the very real dangers we currently face.

Dariush

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