There is not a day that goes by in which I do not: 1) check my e-mail 2) go on Facebook 3) spend hours online checking out various blogs, music sites, yes, even Perez Hilton. About a week ago, I faced a major crisis, I felt helpless, lost and very uninformed. Finally, after what felt like an eternity (more accurately, 24 hours) I breathed a sigh of relief, the comforting bass hum of my Macbook Pro rang out, I was once again with electricity. Ironically, it was during this involuntary period of time sans internet that I was e-mailed the request to cover Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology. Part documentary and part narrative, Connected is the enlightening story of universal dependence on technology, and how this dependency affects our way of life in the 21st Century.
Director, narrator, and visionary of the film, Tiffany Shlain, came up with the concept for Connected while having lunch one day with a friend that she had not seen in years. She was enjoying the reunion, exchanging stories and juicy gossip, but still she could not resist the urge to check-in with her cell phone, fearing she was missing more important, fast-breaking news. Instead of being rude and jumping on her phone mid-conversation, Shlain politely excused herself from the table and discreetly went to the bathroom, locked the restroom stall and immediately checked her email. She was disgusted with the loss of control she felt at that moment, and it was then that it clicked: after centuries of declaring our independence, should we really be claiming our “interdependence” instead?
Shlain has always been intrigued with the concept of technology, an interest she attributes to her father, the noted surgeon, scholar, and author, Leonard Shlain. She had always intended to collaborate on the film with her father who had so much insight on the topic. Little did either know, a collaboration would become inevitable, ultimately becoming the basis of the film.
The film opens with a plain white background with Shlain standing front and center, the only person in frame. She plays the part of narrator, introducing us to the film by giving the audience some background of the film’s genesis. Shlain uses a unique method of film making, her style is very eclectic combining a handful of different mediums. In one montage, she uses her personal family home videos, cut intermittently with images from the 1920’s: computer generated graphics and original animations. This may seem like a random grouping of visuals, but it makes Connected feel that much more organic, that much more interconnected. Not only for film buffs, but the general population.
Shlain has a lot invested in the film, this is her feature directorial debut, therefore her entire career is at stake. She explains to the audience that after watching an 80 minute rough cut of the film, she was left unfulfilled. She panicked, not only was this her name on the title, but the very purpose of the film was to show how we are all connected, yet she couldn’t even connect with her own film. She explains that she needed more humor and soul, and never expected where that inspiration would come from.
As filming was underway, two very important life changes took place in Shlain’s life, which she shares with the audience. Her father, and collaborator on the film, Leonard, was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer and is given nine months to live. In that same week, Shlain learns that she is pregnant with her second child. The interconnection is staring her in the face and as hard as it is for Shlain to get that personal, she knows this is what her movie is meant to be about.
Throughout the film she explores her personal relationship with her family, noting her admiration of her father and his accomplishments (he is the author of such books as The Alphabet Versus the Goddess and Art and Physics), as well as her constantly growing relationship with her brother, saying that the relationship between siblings is strongest; they know the real you, have seen you at your worst, seen you at your best, and most likely will be the longest relationship one will ever have in their lifetime. Technological dependency is discussed with a focus on the internet and its ability to link seven billion minds of thought together through social networking. Scientifically, the film does a great job of explaining the various ways of thinking. “Right brain vs. left brain” is discussed in a very informative, yet in an entertaining way. Such notable people, like Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Sophocles are looked to as pioneers of those who tried to understand the complex relationships between people, places and things.
Connected is not a pretentious look at how technology is contributing to or detrimental to our future, rather it is a commentary on why it is playing such a dominant role in our lives today, even at this very moment. Informative, emotional and inspiring, Connected is a film that should be seen by all.
Watch our exclusive interview with director Tiffany Shlain here; she gets personal talking about her father’s influence on her life.