A Good Film that raises more Questions than it knows how to answer
Avi Weider's Welcome to the Machine had its World Premiere appropriately enough at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film is an enjoyable romp thru the complex world of technological change. The subject is vast and nuanced and Weider does an admirable job of asking some really big and fundamental questions. Where does humanity begin and our technology end? What does it mean to be human in this environment? How do we cope with technology that is challenging our very definition of our humanity? But the questions are far more evocative than the answers he is able to elicit. He attempts to address the questions via both stories and interviews. The film is structured around the highly personal story of the birth of his triplets via in vitro fertilization (IVF) and the staggering impact that this sort of technology has had on his own family. He interweaves this into a series of clips of interviews with leading talking head technologists. The experts raise many contradictory ideas that aren't fully developed or explored. He then adds layers including an exploration of the Biblical take on technological change. He interweaves all of this with the stories of a man learning to see with artificial eyes and young soldiers learning to fly hi-tech Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) in Iraq. He even writes a series of letters to the ultimate technology critic, the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. There are just a few too many threads that are offered up as starting points and then dropped unresolved. The film is entertaining and provocative, but seems unable to fully cope with the numerous far flung questions that it raises. It feels like there are too many stories and episodes and experts going off in too many different directions. The director seems unable to narrow the focus to a single theme that he can fully explore and develop in a clear methodical manner. The nature of technology is just too broad a question to really examine this way. The effect is too overwhelming and not quite as enlightening as one could hope. The film is certainly well worth seeing, but the viewer may be more confused than enlightened by the time the credits roll.
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