Throw the “seeing is believing” axiom to the wind.
Experimental documentarian Theo Anthony explores implicit biases with video evidence and the limitations and pitfalls of the surveillance state in his new film All Light, Everywhere.
The film weaves together the philosophical musings of Renaissance physicists, a Baltimore community meeting, a brief history of early interplanetary photography, an inner-city classroom film project and other disparate subjects to tell his story.
Even the experimental form in which the film is presented lends to his thesis. The documentary often presents the same event from different points of view and at different production and editing stages. The audience experiences not just the moving image, but the process by which the moving image was created.
But the centerpiece that holds the different threads together is police body cameras.
“What I found in body cameras was this really compelling confrontation of political, philosophical questions around image making,” said Anthony at a post-screening Q&A at DCTV in Lower Manhattan.
Anthony’s crew had ample access to the plant of the leading police body camera manufacturer, Axon, and a police training seminar on the use of body cameras. He said he wanted to present that footage as a fly on the wall and wasn’t interested in “gotcha” or manipulative journalism.
Anthony explained that although the devices are “meant to present the world as it is,” they carry their own inherent biases and uphold existing power structures.
He said the film was meant to demonstrate contradictions in the moving image and how one single truth is difficult to glean from video surveillance footage. He invoked his “favorite physicist” Neils Bohr with the quote, “Opposites are not contradictory but complementary,” to illuminate his point.
Anthony’s previous project, Rat Film (2016), also employed nonconventional storytelling methods. The film is a socio political examination of the city of Baltimore told through the focal point of a rat infestation. Anthony said he spent five years researching, filming and editing All Light, Everywhere. He said he intends to take a break from documentary for his next project.