HBO’s documentary “Shock Video” diagnoses where we are, now that the world of instant images is available to more than 40 million people who own camcorders. But the show doesn’t explore the interesting question of who is benefiting more: Big Brother, who can now monitor cities with street-corner cameras, or Little Brother, who can now catch Big Brother being bad?
Taped in England by HBO in association with Channel Four Television; executive producer, Sheila Nevins; producers/directors, Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato; Tight editing by Laurie Weltz paces this quick-moving docu — with the title playing off “Future Shock,” by Alvin Toffler, who makes an appearance here — that throws the spotlight on well-known types like Toffler, civil rights lawyer William Kunstler, fellow barrister Alan Dershowitz and other social professors and experts.
Most of them fuel the fear that all this is wicked and what is being lost is privacy. Toffler frets over every action being recorded (which seems more like paranoia than reading the future). In a time of ultraviolent crime, some cities are using cameras mounted on light poles to watch troublesome streets and neighborhoods, and police cars are equipped with video cameras.
Producers/directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato devote time to people worrying over this but seem to find no corresponding comfort in these innovations.
But the biggest impact, and rightfully played up here, is how the Everyman has become deputized, in a sense, with the introduction of camcorders. And if Joe Sixpack isn’t taping brutality and injustice, there’s also a growing market for do-your-own porn. Good or bad production values don’t matter, it’s the action that counts.
The real subject of this docu is our own insecurity and ambivalence about the developing video technology, which can be good at the same time it’s being bad. It just depends which side of the camera you’re on.