STOP10 Jul 2017: '#NOFILTER' by Ghazi Alqudcy and Kyle Ong

In #NOFILTER, Ghazi Alqudcy and Kyle Ong present life from the bird's eye view and the ant's eye view. The catch is, we see all of this on a space that's neither here nor there - the screen of our smartphones. In roughly 12 minutes, Alqudcy and Ong document Arief and Mark, two young men with immense drive to follow their unique passions. Yet, both of them have found that their hobbies have led them to the unlikely realm of Instagram. Arief lives in Jakarta where he scales the dizzying heights of skyscrapers to get a view of the city nobody else can.

The film opens with Arief leading the audience on path with his handheld camera to reach the top of a construction site. For the filmmakers to hand the camera over to their subject proves effective here, as we get to watch Arief thinking and strategizing his climb. So much so that we end up experiencing a part of that euphoria when he finally reaches the top. The direction is cheeky, complete with puns about getting high, highlighting Arief’s law-defying (and sometimes gravity-defying) nature.

Next we meet Mark from Singapore, whose hobby is to collect ants. This segment almost seemed to spoof a more traditional ‘nature documentary’. Instead of getting that typical romanticized shot of the subject sitting in his environment, we get a comical shot of Mark doing a strange sort of repetitive dance while sitting on a log in a forest. Visually, I thought it looked a lot like an Instagram boomerang. I even rewatched this bit to see if it was – which just goes to show the extent to which the Instagram way of seeing things pervades our visual culture consumption.

As much as the film sets out to be about social media, the divisive effect of Instagram ends up becoming a half-hearted addendum. If anything, it appears as a misdirected attempt at giving the film some kind of social depth. For me, in those moments where we see the boys at work on their individual passions, the depth is already there. Something I found myself wondering was the role the cities they live in had to play in the way they discovered and fulfil these hobbies. Perhaps exploring this strand further could have resulted in a more interesting socio-cultural perspective. This short film is a great foil to criticisms made against “millennials” for lacking a passion and not knowing how to experience life without a smartphone – when actually, what this generation knows how to do really well is amplify their lived experiences through the use of modern technology.

#NOFILTER premiered as part of the Discovery Channel Jumpcut short film series featuring untold stories of Southeast Asia. You can watch the full documentary here:

Written by Tanvi Rajvanshi

For the full list of July 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.
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