Digital Prospector: Earning "non-racist" points, voyeurism as art, "Adrift" in San Francisco fog

Critic Rustin Thompson shares the best - and worst - in online video.
Crosscut archive image.

Fog over the San Francisco area is the focus of a two-year long project that culminates in the video "Adrift"

Critic Rustin Thompson shares the best - and worst - in online video.

Crosscut archive image.

This witty satire features a self-confident high-tech geek introducing us to his app, iNotRacist, which awards points for “non-racism.” In the opening shot he goes out of his way to get the door for a young black woman entering a shop, then he turns to the camera and says, “If you’re like me you’re always opening doors for African-Americans. It’s the right thing to do and it proves you’re not a racist.” App users can earn credits for “friending the Latino guy from lunch” or “dating an Asian person.” Back at his desk, our enlightened nerd subtly displays his Tibetan prayer flags and a photo of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, before asking for Kickstarter-like donations. He wants to install a dating feature to connect with other nonracist singles, such as the woman who loves “long walks on non-segregated beaches.” There is also a trivia game. Sample question: “What did Martin Luther King, Jr. have?”

Life Gets Better
“Life as a divorced, unemployed sex offender with herpes isn’t as easy as it sounds,” moans Todd, the sad sack protagonist of local director Tommy Yacoe’s twelve minute comedy. Featured in The Stranger’s ongoing series called “Short Film Fridays”, Yacoe blends motel-bland art direction, a dark, deadpan script and a perfectly underplayed performance by Brian N. Taylor as Todd, to skewer the airless ennui of the SoCal dating world. The ending shot is a predictable letdown, but you don’t want to miss what a suicidal Todd finds when he opens the door to his oven.

Emily’s Video
Eva and Franco Mattes specialize in what might be called “aversion art.” In their public webcam piece No Fun, Franco simulated his own suicide-by-hanging and then collected the on-camera reactions of people who watched the video. Eva edited their expressions of shock, laughter and confusion into a museum-ready installation piece. Only one person actually called the police. Their notorious follow-up, Emily’s Video, recently finished a run at the Caroll/Fletcher Gallery in London. Random people were invited to view a video in which a woman was supposedly subjected to graphically degrading and violent treatment, and the viewers’ reactions were recorded from their built-in laptop cameras. The resulting montage of horrified faces (we never see the offensive video they’re watching; it has since been destroyed) forces us to imagine the worst. It makes for a very ambiguous statement. Is it artful commentary or repellent voyeurism?

KTVU-TV Asiana Plane Crash Gaffe
Someone, somewhere, somehow slipped a bogus list of racially offensive pilot names past the fact-checkers at KTVU, San Francisco’s “news leader.” The result is one of those live TV moments that must be seen to be believed. KTVU reports they checked the names with the NTSB. The NTSB admits they were confirmed by a “summer intern” (unpaid, unsupervised and now, no doubt, un-interned). Asiana airlines is suing the TV station. For an appropriate wrap-up of this tragedy-begets-comedy moment, search no further than The Colbert Report.

The ability of high definition digital cameras to capture stills and video with startling clarity has resulted in some astonishing work, and a lot of tedious “technique” passed off as art. Time-lapse photography is the latest over-used gimmick. How many short films have you seen where nighttime traffic mutates into pulsing red and yellow streams of light? How about that overview of a convention hall morphing into an ant colony of busy attendees? Been there, done that, right? Well, filmmaker Simon Christen has a surprise for you. Adrift is his jaw-dropping time-lapse ode to San Francisco’s legendary fog. Rivers of velvety white undulate across hills, course through valleys and envelope the Golden Gate Bridge in a pillowy embrace. Christen spent two years hiking to early morning vantage points in the Marin headlands, fingers crossed the fog hadn’t already dissipated before he arrived. His tenacity has paid off with gentle, haunting images surging with life.

For more nuggets from the Digital Prospector, go here. Photo of Golden Gate Bridge courtesy of Simon Christen.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson is a filmmaker, film critic and indie radio deejay. He enjoys strong coffee, red wine, IPAs and his wife and grown children. He is comfortable with the fact he will never be rich, but grows petulant if he thinks too much about it.