Privacy and Surveillance in the Movies

In preparation for my course on privacy I asked the hive mind (mainly Twitter & Facebook) for recommendations of films that deal with privacy. I mostly wanted fictional stuff but most of the documentaries are too good not to include (even though I am sure I have missed a lot of documentaries).

The list is by no means complete so please add or send me anything I missed.

You only live once (Lang 1937) Joan Graham (Sylvia Sidney) works as the secretary to the public defender. Unfortunately, she’s fallen madly in love with a criminal by the name of Eddie Taylor (Henry Fonda). Convinced that Eddie is a good man with bad luck, she pulls some strings and gets Eddie released from prison early. The two get married, but while Eddie tries to fly right, he soon discovers he can’t change his nature. His past comes knocking at their door, and the couple is forced to go into hiding.

The Philadelphia Story (Cukor, 1940) This classic romantic comedy focuses on Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn), a Philadelphia socialite who has split from her husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), due both to his drinking and to her overly demanding nature. As Tracy prepares to wed the wealthy George Kittredge (John Howard), she crosses paths with both Dexter and prying reporter Macaulay Connor (James Stewart). Unclear about her feelings for all three men, Tracy must decide whom she truly loves.

Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954) Sitting in a wheelchair, his leg in a cast, a photographer (James Stewart) spies on courtyard neighbors and sees a murder.

The Conversation (Coppola, 1974) Surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is hired by a mysterious client’s brusque aide (Harrison Ford) to tail a young couple, Mark (Frederic Forrest) and Ann (Cindy Williams). Tracking the pair through San Francisco’s Union Square, Caul and his associate Stan (John Cazale) manage to record a cryptic conversation between them. Tormented by memories of a previous case that ended badly, Caul becomes obsessed with the resulting tape, trying to determine if the couple are in danger.

All the President’s Men (Pakula, 1976) Two green reporters and rivals working for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), research the botched 1972 burglary of the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex. With the help of a mysterious source, code-named Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook), the two reporters make a connection between the burglars and a White House staffer. Despite dire warnings about their safety, the duo follows the money all the way to the top.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (Radford, 1984) A man loses his identity while living under a repressive regime. In a story based on George Orwell’s classic novel, Winston Smith (John Hurt) is a government employee whose job involves the rewriting of history in a manner that casts his fictional country’s leaders in a charitable light. His trysts with Julia (Suzanna Hamilton) provide his only measure of enjoyment, but lawmakers frown on the relationship — and in this closely monitored society, there is no escape from Big Brother.

Brazil (Gilliam, 1985) Low-level bureaucrat Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) escapes the monotony of his day-to-day life through a recurring daydream of himself as a virtuous hero saving a beautiful damsel. Investigating a case that led to the wrongful arrest and eventual death of an innocent man instead of wanted terrorist Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro), he meets the woman from his daydream (Kim Greist), and in trying to help her gets caught in a web of mistaken identities, mindless bureaucracy and lies.

The Net (Winkler, 1995) Computer programmer Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) starts a new freelance gig and, strangely, all her colleagues start dying. Does it have something to do with the mysterious disc she was given? Her suspicions are raised when, during a trip to Mexico, she’s seduced by a handsome stranger (Jeremy Northam) intent on locating the same disc. Soon Angela is tangled up in a far-reaching conspiracy that leads to her identity being erased. Can she stop the same thing from happening to her life?

Gattaca (Niccol, 1997) Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) has always fantasized about traveling into outer space, but is grounded by his status as a genetically inferior “in-valid.” He decides to fight his fate by purchasing the genes of Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), a laboratory-engineered “valid.” He assumes Jerome’s DNA identity and joins the Gattaca space program, where he falls in love with Irene (Uma Thurman). An investigation into the death of a Gattaca officer (Gore Vidal) complicates Vincent’s plans.

The End of Violence (Wenders, 1997) Producer Mike Max (Bill Pullman) has made a fortune through his gory action flicks, but his own capture at the hands of some thugs causes him to reexamine his role in violent productions. After escaping the crooks, he hides out with a group of gardeners, and eventually decides to drop out of Hollywood and stay with his new protectors. Meanwhile, government surveillance man Ray (Gabriel Byrne) uses a complex network of cameras to spy on Los Angeles, but he is disturbed by his superiors.

The Truman Show (Weir, 1998) He doesn’t know it, but everything in Truman Burbank’s (Jim Carrey) life is part of a massive TV set. Executive producer Christof (Ed Harris) orchestrates “The Truman Show,” a live broadcast of Truman’s every move captured by hidden cameras. Cristof tries to control Truman’s mind, even removing his true love, Sylvia (Natascha McElhone), from the show and replacing her with Meryl (Laura Linney). As Truman gradually discovers the truth, however, he must decide whether to act on it.

Enemy of the State (Scott, 1998) Corrupt National Security Agency official Thomas Reynolds (Jon Voight) has a congressman assassinated to assure the passage of expansive new surveillance legislation. When a videotape of the murder ends up in the hands of Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith), a labor lawyer and dedicated family man, he is framed for murder. With the help of ex-intelligence agent Edward “Brill” Lyle (Gene Hackman), Dean attempts to throw Reynolds off his trail and prove his innocence.

Minority Report (Spielberg, 2002) Based on a story by famed science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, “Minority Report” is an action-detective thriller set in Washington D.C. in 2054, where police utilize a psychic technology to arrest and convict murderers before they commit their crime. Tom Cruise plays the head of this Precrime unit and is himself accused of the future murder of a man he hasn’t even met.

Dogville (von Trier, 2004) A barren soundstage is stylishly utilized to create a minimalist small-town setting in which a mysterious woman named Grace (Nicole Kidman) hides from the criminals who pursue her. The town is two-faced and offers to harbor Grace as long as she can make it worth their effort, so Grace works hard under the employ of various townspeople to win their favor. Tensions flare, however, and Grace’s status as a helpless outsider provokes vicious contempt and abuse from the citizens of Dogville.

Code 46 (Winterbottom, 2004) In a dystopian future, insurance fraud investigator William Gold (Tim Robbins) arrives in Shanghai to investigate a forgery ring for “papelles,” futuristic passports that record people’s identities and genetics. Gold falls for Maria Gonzalez (Samantha Morton), the woman in charge of the forgeries. After a passionate affair, Gold returns home, having named a coworker as the culprit. But when one of Gonzalez’s customers is found dead, Gold is sent back to Shanghai to complete the investigation.

Caché (Hidden) (Haneke, 2005) A Parisian couple terrorised by anonymous videos which hint at a long-kept secret.

The Lives of Others (Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006) In 1983 East Berlin, dedicated Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe), doubting that a famous playwright (Sebastian Koch) is loyal to the Communist Party, receives approval to spy on the man and his actress-lover Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck). Wiesler becomes unexpectedly sympathetic to the couple, then faces conflicting loyalties when his superior takes a liking to Christa-Maria and orders Wiesler to get the playwright out of the way.

Disturbia (Caruso, 2007) Ever since his father died, young Kale (Shia LaBeouf) has become increasingly sullen and withdrawn, until he finds himself under house arrest. With cabin fever setting in, he turns his attention to spying on his neighbors, becoming increasingly suspicious that one of them is a serial killer. However, he wonders if he is right, or if his overactive imagination is getting the better of him.

Look (Rifkin, 2007) Interconnected stories are told entirely through images captured on security cameras in storage rooms, police cars, parking lots, shopping malls and other locations. Store manager Tony (Hayes MacArthur) has affairs with the women who work under him, high schooler Sherri (Spencer Redford) schemes to seduce teacher Berry (Jamie McShane), a pedophile stalks his next victim at a mall food court and two thieves go on a killing spree that links to other tales witnessed by the unseen electronic eyes.

We Live in Public (Timoner, 2009) In 1999, Internet entrepreneur Josh Harris recruits dozens of young men and women who agree to live in underground apartments for weeks at a time while their every movement is broadcast online. Soon, Harris and his girlfriend embark on their own subterranean adventure, with cameras streaming live footage of their meals, arguments, bedroom activities and bathroom habits. This documentary explores the role of technology in our lives, as it charts the fragile nature of dot-com economy.

The Social Network (Fincher, 2010) In 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer genius Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) begins work on a new concept that eventually turns into the global social network known as Facebook. Six years later, he is one of the youngest billionaires ever, but Zuckerberg finds that his unprecedented success leads to both personal and legal complications when he ends up on the receiving end of two lawsuits, one involving his former friend (Andrew Garfield).

Erasing David (Bond & McDougall, 2010) Dramatized documentary (docufiction) film from the United Kingdom. Stating that as of today the UK is “one of the three most intrusive surveillance states in the world, after China and Russia”, director and performer David Bond tries to put the system to the test. After anonymously setting up private investigators Cerberus Investigations Limited to trace him, he tries to disappear.

Terms and Conditions May Apply (Hoback, 2013) Filmmaker Cullen Hoback exposes the erosion of online privacy and what information governments and corporations are legally taking from citizens each day.

Citizenfour (Poitras, 2014) After Laura Poitras received encrypted emails from someone with information on the government’s massive covert-surveillance programs, she and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong to meet the sender, who turned out to be Edward Snowden.

Granny's Dancing on the Table

Three years ago Hanna Sköld did a bold and daring thing. She took out a private bankloan to produce her film Nasty Old People and when it was done she made things worse by releasing it under a Creative Commons license and spread it via The Pirate Bay. The prophets of doom were wringing their hands and predicting her eternal financial, artistic and commercial doom.

The film quickly spread across 113 countries and was downloaded more than 50,000 times. It was translated, remixed and screened all around the world. She made back her money and established herself as a filmmaker to keep your eyes on both in Sweden and internationally. Naturally people with an interest in CC thought she was pretty cool too.

Now she is launching her new project its a story about a grandmother called “Granny’s Dancing on the Table”. Her early experiment in licensing and radical distribution continues, this time she has begun with kickstarter funding. Check it out here:

Together with you, we will create a granny-invasion! Because this time we are not only creating a film, we are creating a whole universe – the GRANNIVERSE – which includes a feature film, a psycological adventure game and International Grannyday.

Also consider the Granny Philosophy!


We do believe that stories can change the world.


We do believe that the world should be seen from different perspectives.


We do believe that everyone can contribute with something. Money, ideas, energy, sharing, support, beers……


We do believe that freedom of speech and stories should be carried by people, not by big companies.


We do believe that shared information is a way to create a more equal world.


We do believe that by listening to each others stories we will expand our world.


And preferably on the table.

Let your own Granny be part of The Granny Invasion at Join the #granniverse!

Polaroid is back, baby!

Polaroid is back! This via Futuramb. Wonderful that certain technologies refuse to die.

The Impossible Project, Made Possible: Polaroid Instant Film Is  Back on Sale | Dan’s FC Blog | Fast Company A story about when enthusiasts striving for feel and authenticity are  recreating what a company recently decided it would drop. Polaroid film  is back!

The Impossible Project, Made Possible: Polaroid Instant Film Is Back on Sale | Dan’s FC Blog | Fast Company

A story about when enthusiasts striving for feel and authenticity are recreating what a company recently decided it would drop. Polaroid film is back! Via Fastcompany:

The Impossible project’s film is actually more expensive than the original Polaroid film available on eBay and Craigslist, but the point is that those stores of original Polaroid film will eventually be used–and the Impossible project is here to stay, at least until people stop caring about Polaroid (probably never).

The film will be available starting this Thursday, March 25, through the company’s site.

Enforcing Copyright to ensure heterosexuality

It’s always amusing (and a bit worrying) to read the reactions to claims that fictional characters may be gay. In the beginning of last year articles like Of course Tintin’s gay. Ask Snowy caused an uproar.

And now the pressure is on Sherlock Holmes. He has always been a bit suspicious. His relationship to Dr Watson a bit too much. Even if he does fall in love with a client in an episode of the tv series he never marries, never has a girlfriend. Watson is more of a ladies man, but never really leaves the relationship with Holmes. In the latest movie with Robert Downey Jr as the detective and Jude Law as Dr Watson the characters wrestle and share a bed.

In an interview on Downey Jr wondered whether Holmes was “a butch homosexual”. This has apparently annoyed Andrea Plunket the copyright holder who threatens to withdraw permission for a sequel if Holmes and Watson become gayer.

“I hope this is just an example of Mr. Downey’s black sense of humour. It would be drastic, but I would withdraw permission for more films to be made if they feel that is a theme they wish to bring out in the future. “I am not hostile to homosexuals, but I am to anyone who is not true to the spirit of the books.” (Times Live)

Using Copyright to ensure heterosexuality is an interesting application. I doubt whether this was the reason for the law. For us copyright nerds Arthur Conan Doyle died 7 July 1930 – in other words almost 80 years ago. But then on explains their licensing grounds and also has an interesting heredity of the Conan Doyle Estate.

In the EC, the entire work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle enjoys copyright protection until 31 December 2000. After that date, a number of characters created by the author will enjoy trademark protection.

In the US, the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1997 (105th Congress, 1st Session H.R. 604 ) has extended the renewal term of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works among others for an additional 20 years. This means that all works published after December 31, 1922 are protected for 95 years following the date of publication.

So no outing of Sherlock is allowed without Andrea Plunket’s permission. As for her argument about “not true to the spirit of the books” – the new film shows Sherlock doing many things that are not in the books so even this seems to be an arbitrary choice.


Claims by Andrea Plunket, the ex-wife of the late Sheldon Reynolds, who produced a Sherlock Holmes TV series in the 1950s, that she controls the Holmes copyrights and can withhold her approval of a sequel if she regards the content to be unacceptable were denounced Tuesday by Chicago attorney Jon Lellenberg, the administrator of the Estate of Dame Jean Conan Doyle. In an email statement, Lellenberg said that the estate signed three contracts with Warner Bros.: one for character rights in the Sherlock Holmes movie, another for merchandising rights, and  the third for a related Tom & Jerry cartoon. He noted that the estate has won numerous federal court cases filed by Plunket and is currently trying to collect on several judgments against her for attorneys fees and costs in those cases. Asked whether it is possible that Plunket also signed a contract with Warner Bros., Lellenberg replied that if the studio “paid her something re nuisance value … we will go after it to discharge the judgments against her.” Attempts to reach a spokesman for Warner Bros. to comment on the matter were unsuccessful.

Fields of Gold: Lifting the Veil on Europe's Farm Subsidies

The European Union spends €55 billion a year on farm subsidies. Until recently the question of where the money goes was a closely-guarded secret. But thanks to a campaign by journalists, researchers and computer programmers, European taxpayers now have the right to know how their tax money is spent. This short film tells the story of

Fields of Gold: Lifting the Veil on Europe’s Farm Subsidies from on Vimeo.

Code Rush

The documentary Code Rush from 2000 is about the open-sourcing of the Netscape code base and the beginning of the Mozilla project. Here is a comment from IMDB

Watch this film and you will get to see the things that a college computer science course could never prepare you for: having to sleep at the office for days in order to meet a deadline, alienation from family, caffeine addiction, having one’s release blocked by intellectual property concerns, and other cold realities of Silicon Valley. If you’re thinking about getting a career in software engineering or software project management, Code Rush is a must-see.

This documentary also gives insight into a few of the major milestones in the history of the software industry, such as the opening of the Netscape source code, which is code named “Mozilla”. If it weren’t for this release, we wouldn’t have Mozilla Firefox, one of the most popular Internet browsing solutions today. The footage also covers one of the most notable company acquisitions of that time period.

Code Rush is now released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license. There is also a dedicated homepage for the film, with links to stream or download the film in various formats.

Two types of people

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those that enter a room and turn the television set on, and those that enter a room and turn the television set off.

The Manchurian Candidate (1963). More details IMDB.

The Hunt for Gollum

How’s this for an amazing project? A group of over enthusiastic filmmakers have created a film based on Lord of the Rings. The title is The Hunt for Gollum and it will be released for free online from their website on 3 May.

The script is adapted from elements of the appendices of The Lord of the Rings. The story follows the Heir of Isildur; the “greatest huntsman and traveller in Middle Earth” as he sets out to find the creature Gollum. The creature must be found to discover the truth about the Ring, and to protect the future Ringbearer.

The Hunt For Gollum is an unofficial not for profit short film by a group of enthusiast filmmakers. As a Lord of the Rings Fan Film, we are not affiliated with the Tolkien Estate or New Line Cinema and are producing this project as an entirely non commercial film. As with other fan films we are making this purely for the enjoyment of the material and the experience of making a high quality low budget film.

So Far…
Production began in early 2007 when writer-director Chris Bouchard started adapting the script from the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings. Since then, the first three days of filming were completed in September 2007 on location in N Wales.

Check out the cool trailer 1 and trailer 2

A great step for UK art & world culture

This is really cool news and it just makes you wish that all other countries will follow suite. So what’s the news? Well the director general Mark Thompson of the BBC has just announced that the BBC is going to digitalize and put online all paintings in public ownership in the UK and the contents of the Arts Council’s vast film archive online as part of a range of initiatives that it has pledged will give it a “deeper commitment to arts and music”. Just the art amounts to around 200,000 oil paintings! (via The Guardian)

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw

John Singer Sargent, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Lady Agnew is one of the 200 000 pictures we can look forward to seeing online. The good news may still be spoiled if the technology used (or indeed the licenses) somehow prevents users from being able to enjoy them properly.