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‘Koyaanisqatsi’ director’s dystopian PSA for The New Mexico Civil Liberties Union, 1974

Godfrey Reggio is best known for the first installment of his avant-garde “Qatsi” trilogy, Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. The 1982 film was a Philip Glass-scored non-linear experiment in slow motion and timelapse footage, depicting urban and natural scenes throughout the US. Koyaanisqatsi contains no dialogue at all, and its follow-ups, Powaqqatsi: Life in transformation (1988) and Naqoyqatsi: Life as war (2002), contain very little—all three films are named for words in Hopi, as Reggio believed “language is in a state of vast humiliation,” saying, “It no longer describes the world in which we live.”

Before all of this however, Reggio was a community activist working on issues of health care and gang violence in New Mexico, eventually forming a sort of media activist non-profit, the Institute for Regional Education. The IRE was commissioned by the The New Mexico Civil Liberties Union to create a public service announcement warning of the growing surveillance culture, resulting in the trippy, insidious short you see below. In addition to cinematographer Ron Fricke‘s trademark visual style, the PSA parallels Reggio’s later work pretty clearly in terms of theme. There is a palpable fear of an unfeeling, authoritarian modernity, a historical period of technology and industrialization, rather than humanity.

While the campaign ran on billboards, radio and in print ads, it was the television commercial that really caught on—viewers actually called stations to see when the ad would air again. Despite the success of the campaign, the ACLU stopped funding the IRE, and after an unsuccessful Washington fundraiser, Fricke suggested the remaining money be used to fund a full-length film—Koyaanisqatsi.

Via Network Awesome

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Party Hats for Big Brother on George Orwell’s 110th birthday

Festively decorated surveillance camera in Utrecht, Netherlands on Tuesday in honor of George Orwell’s birthday

Yesterday the Dutch city of Utrecht celebrated George Orwell’s 110th birthday by placing colorful party hats on surveillance cameras in the city center. Orwell’s novel 1984, published in 1949, describes a futuristic world in which the all-powerful government, Big Brother, keeps its citizens under close surveillance in public and in their homes.

Via Front 404

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
IWATCH: The Big Brotherization Of Los Angeles
12:05 pm

Current Events


“Let law enforcement determine if it’s a threat…and let the experts decide.”  Earlier this week, I made note of the security cameras popping up all over Kabul.  Today, though, brings news that suggests the surveillance impulse is just as alive and well here in Los Angeles.  The below clip is from iWATCH, the LAPD’s:

community awareness program created to educate the public about behaviors and activities that may have a connection to terrorism.  This program is a community program to help your neighborhood stay safe from terrorist activities.  It is a partnership between your community and the Los Angeles Police Department.  We can and must work together to prevent terrorist attacks.

A noble aim, true, but must the campaign come off sounding—and looking—so creepy?  I’m not sure what’s more desperately transparent here: the pandering to youth culture with that lowercase “i,” or the PSA’s carefully calibrated casting?

I mean, do people not watch these things and realize that each and every one of these “LA voices” is an actor who, to land the gig, underwent a rigorous audition process?  A process that, at some point, probably hinged on how “threatening” their own ethnicity might be perceived?  And not to read too much into one PSA, but isn’t it odd that the more gratuitous close-ups belong most frequently to those of the white guys?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment