Hot Docs 2021: “The Face of Anonymous”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Activism or hacktivism is an important step towards the necessary social change. In some countries, activists either get caught and put in jail or even worse, especially those that try to stop injustice and reveal dark government secrets. However, there’s always a greater price to be paid when one embarks on a dangerous journey that can easily take freedom away if not life itself.

Gary Lang’s “The face of Anonymous” follows the extraordinary story of an eccentric American, Christopher Doyon, who is homeless by choice. If you pass him by, you won’t see anything extraordinary in him. However, he was the person who turned the internet upside down by becoming one of the most important figures in the international “hacktivist” network known as Anonymous. Doyon had an interesting nickname, Commander X, which was good enough to send goosebumps to the intelligence agencies.

We all remember the story of the Anonymous group and how they would bring ugly truths of government corruption to light. Gary Lang, in his film, follows colorful individuals, including novelist Ian Thornton, Gregg Housh, Barrett Brown, Jay Leiderman, David Kushner and Leon Panetta, their insightful story into the world of hackers, how It all started, and why it terrifies agencies like the FBI. As we follow Commander X, he passionately tells his journey from the start till the moment when he enters the immigration office in Mexico, after constant persecution in the United States.

The film is far from being great. But it’s informative, which is what matters the most. Though it’s an influential subject matter, the film leaves little room for imagination, which should have been the other way around. But if you keep an open mind, allow the documentary subjects to tell their side of the story, it becomes a much easier piece to watch. Don’t get me wrong; Gary Lang does his best to deliver an important story and puts every effort towards educating his most loyal audience. It’s just the structure sometimes seems flat and unmoving, which is crucial for this type of film to have the audience engaged throughout.

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