Three DOXA selections examine the Internet's impact on people

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The impact of the Internet on offline culture is at the heart of three films at this year’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival.

Web Junkie, a documentary from Israeli filmmakers Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam, goes inside an Internet-addiction rehabilitation facility in Beijing, China. Internet addiction is of increasing concern in the country, with young people, primarily boys, spending days in front of computers playing games like World of Warcraft.

Reached over the phone at her home in Israel, Medalia said the duo spent four months at one of these quasi-militaristic facilities, interviewing children and their families. While the movie is focused on Chinese teens, Medalia noted that the overuse of the Internet is a global phenomenon.

“There is a change in human relations as we know them,” said Medalia. “We are more connected in many ways, but at the same time we are more alone.”

U.K. filmmaker Beeban Kidron also tackles the way the Internet is reshaping teenage behaviour in InRealLife, a documentary that examines whether we have, as a culture, “outsourced our children to the Internet”. Kidron came to the subject after noticing how the teenagers around her were constantly glued to their smartphones, yet had little concern over online privacy.

“Think about what we have allowed or encouraged or what is routine—all of those words: routine, encouraged, allowed—to go on online,” said Kidron on the phone from London, England. “This is a generation of disclosures and it’s part of the culture—you disclose.”

She interviews a range of subjects, including teenage boys who only want to discuss pornography, a girl who trades sexual favours for a smartphone, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

“If kids are only consumers—if they’re trapped in this sort of rather compulsive space of Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and so on, where they own all your data and they sell it back to you, it’s like gambling—the house always wins,” Kidron said.

The Internet is also an essential player in DOXA’s closing-night film, A Brony Tale, which profiles the grown-up, web-centric fandom surrounding the children’s TV show My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Vancouver filmmaker Brent Hodge examines this group of fans through the eyes of Hey Ocean! singer Ashleigh Ball, who voices two of the show’s characters.

Hodge interviews Ball as she gears up to attend New York City’s 2012 BronyCon, along with several bronies—typically, male fans between 20 and 30 years old—from all walks of life.

“As much as it [the Internet] has been this huge advance in knowledge, it’s also been kind of isolating for people as well,” said Hodge in a phone interview from New York City, before A Brony Tale’s world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. “The Internet has allowed them to go out and really easily access each other."

Web Junkie screens at the Cinematheque on Saturday (May 3) and at the Vancity Theatre next Wednesday (May 7); InRealLife screens at the Vancity Theatre on Sunday (May 4); A Brony Tale screens at both the Vancouver Playhouse and the Vancity Theatre on May 11.

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