Category Archives: Digital Culture

The Panama Papers – a Symbol of True Digital Disruption

The word disruption is used so very often it has almost lost its power. But there are times the world is genuinely disrupted, and on a global scale.

The current Panama Papers’ scandal is a symptom of one such disruption. It is extraordinary in its scale and global reach. It demonstrates the insecurities of our digital society, the almost-death of privacy, and indeed issues with the way our connected world is governed.

A Prime Minister Resigns

At the time of writing, the scandal has claimed its first major victim with the resignation of Iceland’s embattled prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. The UK Guardian said:

“A mass protest planned in Reykjavik later … turned to celebration as Icelanders vented their anger at the outgoing prime minister following revelations that he had once owned – and his wife still owns – a secret offshore investment company with multimillion-pound claims on Iceland’s failed banks.”  

This is an event likely to lead to new elections that may change the face of Icelandic politics.


Global Impact

Other threads of the emerging story link the papers to Chinese and Russian leadership, FIFA’s new president Gianni Infantino, and the father of the British Prime Minister David Cameron. Another connects billions of dollars of foreign funds to London property, exacerbating concerns about affordability for the young.  There are implications and investigations across Africa, Austria, France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand. 

 President Obama made the following observation, highlighting some of the systemic issues the scandal illuminates:  

“We’ve had another reminder in this big dump of data coming out of Panama that tax avoidance is a big, global problem. It’s not unique to other countries because, frankly, there are folks here in America who are taking advantage of the same stuff. A lot of it is legal, but that’s exactly the problem. It’s not that they’re breaking the laws, it’s that the laws are so poorly designed that they allow people, if they’ve got enough lawyers and enough accountants, to wiggle out of responsibilities that ordinary citizens are having to abide by.”

The Source 

The Panama Papers consist of 11.5m documents created across a period of four decades that describe the details of 214,000 entities. These were leaked from a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca, passed to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The analysis has been undertaken by journalists from 107 media organizations in 76 countries – connecting the BBC, the Guardian, the Washington Post, El Pais and many more giants of media. The scale of the leak is breathtakingly gigantic, consisting of 2,600 Gb of data compared with around 1.7 Gb for the 2010 Wikileaks event.


How this particular saga will play out is unpredictable. The sheer scale of the data released means we are in for turbulence in certain parts of the world, and privileged parts at that. It is a journalist’s dream. But there are some intriguing general themes here that are already visible, and of relevance to many enterprises.

Digital Insecurity, Digital Trust

Trust_(466709245)Digital tech has made the world insecure in an utterly fundamental sense. In the case of the Panama Papers, a very bright light has been shone into dark places. But of course, data leaks are not always for noble purpose.

Data for every member of a country’s population can be easily held on a small single device. Another recent event was the apparent illegal release of data for a huge section of the Turkish population. Information including names, birth dates, national id numbers, addresses, and parent names were posted online in a downloadable 6.6 Gb file. This looks like one of the biggest public leaks of personal data ever and one that puts maybe the majority of the country’s population at risk of identity theft. 

 Another example: a group of cyber-fraudsters researched the the internal processes of Bangladesh’s central bank, then – using that information – posed as officials to request a series of transfers to illicit accounts which approached $1 billion in value. The scale of the transactions, coupled with a spelling mistake in a name noticed by Deutsche Bank, halted the fraud but not before around $80m was lost – essentially one of the biggest known bank robberies in history

 Technology is the friend and enabler of the committed politically-driven leaker or equally committed cyber-criminal. For better or for worse, it is possible for an individual or small group to shake the foundations of a business, of a nation and of a global system. 

 The implication of this for enterprises and individuals is profound in the long-term. It will be better to start in the right place, and operate with public values and transparency as far as humanly possible. Where security and privacy do matter – few would want to be transparent about their credit card numbers for example – then the creation of true digital trust, using technologies like block-chain, becomes one of the key challenges of future business. And every organization will need to treat transparency, values and security as connected C-level issues.

Digital trust will be as important to modern capitalism as the invention of double-entry book-keeping was at its birth. 

 The High Velocity of Crisis

The velocity of the news cycle becomes ever more gruelling. The Icelandic and UK governments are facing major crises within hours and days of disclosures of overwhelming volume. In the specific case of the Panama Papers, corporates like HSBC are also caught in the global tsunami. Other data leaks have caused high profile issues for a long-list of other companies: Sony, Target, JP Morgan Chase, T-Mobile, Talk-Talk and many more.

In the end, responses need to fast, clear and rooted in truth, solid values, strong technical action and PR expertise to be seen as credible. Leadership everywhere will need to combine integrity, rigour and agility in the way they prepare for and deal with issues. 

The Issues of Governance in a Part-Globalised World

There are real tensions in our systems of business and political governance. The global elite and global businesses are ever more connected. Conversely, Tax systems are balanced between complex global treaties and the historic centres of gravity in national tax regimes.  Some will seek to hide their wealth through the complex system this creates. On the other hand, many expat workers will grind their teeth at the frustrating processes required to avoid double taxation. Within major corporates, tax is seen as a global issue where networks are designed – generally perfectly legally – to optimize profit. To do otherwise would be less than competitive.

But most politics is still national. In the West, there is growing democratic frustration at globalization on both left and right. (Although ironically the Panama Papers are being analyzed by a global consortium of journalists.) There is a long road ahead to balance the powers of global political and commercial networks against the needs of citizens and democratic consensus. Some would say one of our most urgent tasks is balancing the perceived privileges of the elite against a growing desire for fairness.

Globalization has driven huge benefits, and the position of the average human has improved mightily in the last half-century. We talk about this less often than we should. But there remains a lot to be done, and the leaders of any modern global enterprise need to be deeply aware of the local demands and sensitivities of their customers and stakeholders. Above, political leaders have a field of nettles to grasp to ensure a more efficient and equitable global trading system. 


What we are seeing are the growing pains of what has been called “The Second Machine” age. Digital Technology has become powerful, bringing huge benefits to consumers and producers in both the developed and developing worlds. It also brings people together in new and intensely creative ways.

Simultaneously, it creates wholly new challenges around trust, security and the why the world operates. It enables light to be shone in places long used to the dark. In the end, enterprises and leaders that focus on values, integrity, organizational resilience and rigour will thrive.

Keith Haviland is a business and technology leader, with a special focus on how to combine big vision and practical execution at the very largest scale, and how new technologies will reshape tech services. He is a former Partner and Global Senior Managing Director at Accenture, and founder of Accenture’s Global Delivery Network. Published author and active film producer, including being Co-Executive Producer on “The Last Man on the Moon”.  Advisor/investor for web and cloud-based start-ups. 

Whiplash: outrageously dramatic, redemptive and enthusiastic

I had the privilege of seeing Whiplash at the BFI’s London Film Festival last October. (It was shown at the Accenture gala, renowned for the quality of its films choices). Directed by Damien Chazelle, the film is now on general release in the UK. It is a film with an extraordinary reputation – a reputation that turns out to be completely deserved. Indeed, Whiplash generated a rare standing ovation during the London festival in the vast cathedral space of the Leicester Square Odeon.

The movie is a mash-up of film genres that takes the audience on an emotional and stretching journey. The ending in particular is outrageously redemptive and enthusiastic, revolving around a confrontation between the main characters described purely through musical performance.

The story starts with 19-year old Andrew Neiman (played with a smouldering monomania by Miles Teller). Neiman is a young drummer who wins a place at the Shaffer Conservatory, a major music academy in New York. His ambition is to become one of the “greats” in jazz drumming, Buddy Rich being the example used in the film. Indeed, the film’s name comes from a complex jazz classics, which used in a key musical sequence.

Neiman soon encounters a legendary conductor and teacher called Terence Fletcher. In conventional terms, Fletcher is the villain of the film, although he retains a certain brute-force charm throughout. He is played with psychopathic, wiry and wild-eyed perfection by JK Simmons. Fletcher starts by projecting that charm, initially with elegance, but he turns out to be a talented, inspiring and abusive monster who humiliates the young people in his band, delivering badass and disturbingly funny insults with real gusto. There are hints of a prior student having committed suicide under pressure. The engine of the plot is the tension that develops between Neiman and Fletcher.

With this premise the film moves far away from the cinematic conventions around music or pupil-teacher relationships. It adds dramatic and stylistic conventions from film noir, the tensest of legal dramas, crime thrillers and war movies. It is delightfully old-fashioned in its melodramatic tone.

As a result, the film itself becomes a master class in technique and performance from the ensemble of director, film crew and actors. It is an extended riff on film conventions that is aimed to dazzle. Variety’s reviewer Peter Debruge wrote that the film “demolishes the clichés of the musical-prodigy genre, investing the traditionally polite stages and rehearsal studios of a topnotch conservatory with all the psychological intensity of a battlefield or sports arena.” Close your eyes and you know it should seem ludicrous – life is not this dramatic. But open them and you enter a bargain with the director and actors with little hesitation. This is a story that demands to be followed.

As the film develops, Neiman is inspired – almost demonically possessed – by Fletcher and spends every waking moment rehearsing and practicising, until there is blood on his hands. He looses his girl friend, and brutally competes with other drummers in Fletcher’s orbit.

Without revealing too much of the plot, the two fall out and Fletcher dismisses Neiman, before his own troubles with the academy over the intensity of his abusive style. But somehow the plot engineers a reunion at a major concert, which turns out to be a ploy to humiliate Neiman. However,  Neiman grits metaphorical teeth, and proves himself in a performance of the jazz classic caravan, perfectly assembled via images related to the music, and shots of the faces of the actors. Somehow, with no dialogue whatsoever, the film resolves the tension between the two protagonists. It is easy to applaud.

The film itself possesses an inspiring history of hard effort and perseverance. The original script was featured in the 2012 “Black List” of the best motion picture screenplays that have not yet been produced. Chazelle then turned 15 pages of the screenplay into a short film that was noticed, then acclaimed at the Sundance festival in 2013. The full film was made finally for a small budget of just over $3 million. It has won and been nominated for a dazzling array of awards.

The bottom line is this. Whiplash is a wonderful piece of film making that moves and inspires the audience. It should be in the top five of films to see this year for any true cinema buff. And you will leave the cinema uplifted. Enjoy.

I Saw a Mash-Up of Royalty, Business and New Tech Innovation. It Worked.

Over the last two years I have been working with a small number of start-ups. These are mostly digital and cloud-based, although one is bringing innovation to large-scale consumer goods, and has built an impressive robotic production line near Cambridge. As a result, I have begun to build a classic entrepreneur’s network.

So, a few weeks ago I received an invitation to an event called Pitch@Palace, which is exactly what its name suggests – a start-up demo-day style event that was to be held at St James Palace on November 5th (a day that traditionally – and in this case ironically – marks the Gunpowder plot of 1605 where Guy Fawkes and other conspirators attempted to blow-up the House of Lords).

Pitch@Palace is led and sponsored by the Duke of York who introduces the program on its website with:

 “British prosperity, in all its forms, is central to my work. I want to recognise and reward the people and organisations working to ensure that we have the workforce, intellectual property and entrepreneurial culture to succeed.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect. The event would be well intentioned I was sure. Worthy. But could it be connected to the technical zeitgeist, relevant, genuinely innovative?

In the end, I was simply impressed. Impressed enough, in fact, to write this little post. The event was a job well done by all those involved.

There is something about being in a proper, full-on Palace, of course. The event was held in the spectacular apartments around the throne room – with great ceilings, fine artwork, chandeliers and gilt mirrors. I managed to take my own selfie a few feet in front of the throne – the use of mobile devices being encouraged throughout the event. Pitch@Palace was very well attended and the palace was crowded and full of energy and the buzz of conversation.

It turned out that the pitch day had been supported by a process that ensured the start-ups on show were very high quality. Forty-one start-ups/entrepreneurs had been selected from a network of fourteen partner organisations – tech accelerators, and University and government sponsored schemes. During October, the Duke of York held a “Pitch@Palace Bootcamp” at Central Working Space, part of a huge accelerator facility in the Mile End Road in the classical East End of London, in partnership with Microsoft Ventures, Wayra and KPMG. A panel of judges selected 15 of the start-ups to present.

The main event was kicked-off by the Duke of York. It was the first time I have seen him speak. He gave an urbane, quietly passionate speech about the program – grounded in a real sense of business reality, and strongly encouraging those in attendance to contribute.  It was an introduction that any top flight CEO would have been proud to have made.

Then came a series of three-minute pitches (supported by additional materials available on the web). What was immensely pleasing was the breadth of innovation and ideas on show. Ideas ranged across digital and physical tech, and across the categories of consumer technology, education, environment, medicine, robotics and gaming.

There isn’t space to describe all of the fine fifteen finalists, but I liked Insignia Technologies with smart labeling to reduce food-waste, Pure Marine who aim to crack the challenges of wave energy, Terra Recovery with a mission to mine existing landfill,  Armourgel with a product that protects the vulnerable against injury, Reach Robotics that makes gaming robots, and Insane Logic that through digital apps makes speech and language therapy easily available and affordable. The winner of the vote at the end of the evening was Squirrel who aim to empower low-income employees through digital  tools to manage and save their money.

There were other strong products in the original long-list of forty-one that had their own booths spread through the Palace. I liked See.Sense that manufacture (in Northern Ireland) an intelligent bike light that shines brighter and flickers faster when an internal accelerometer detects change, and so enhances visibility at key moments.

So, part from a good event, what conclusions can be drawn from the evening?

First point: Pitch@Palace emphasizes the way that business innovation and a culture of entrepreneurship have established themselves in the UK, on a strong foundation of tech innovation. There has been a real change over the last decade. The sector appears much more mature than during the time of the original frenzy at the turn of the century. There is a way to go – some ideas require larger funding that is commonly available early in the UK, and there needs to be more support for the creation of effective channels for new companies (an ex-colleague of mine has created a fine business that does just that). But, overall, we have developed a culture and infrastructure that can create new forms of growth.

Second point: I was impressed with seeing so much hardware and physical product. And some of this was being manufactured in the UK. The UK is now very strong in media and digital production, but it needs to be stronger across all manufacturing.

Third point: Many of the ideas and products presented – by design of the Pitch@Palace process – had a strong social or environmental edge. They were uniformly good business ideas as well. The evening felt remarkably progressive.

So, last night I saw a mash-up of Royalty, business and bright, new tech innovation. It worked.

Steam, War Computers and Social Media: Representing Technology in Film

The London Film Festival is currently on – running from 8th to 17th October across 17 venues, showing over 250 films. As always, it offers an extraordinarily rich program from filmmakers across the world, in a city that has now firmly become one of the movie capitals of the world.

Film, of course, is now a truly digital business. In the last few years, digital cinema cameras like the Arri Alexa have made physical rolls of films essentially redundant, and give very high-definition results of great quality. Production activities like data wrangling and conforming are tasks centred on managing video data that will seem very familiar to anyone who has dealt with configuration management on a software project. And when films are shown in a modern cinema, they will be stored as a Digital Cinema Package or DCP – a standardised collection of digital files. Everywhere there is also experimentation with digital distribution, the art of getting content to consumers in different ways on different devices, and the web’s video services have unleashed a vast wave of low-cost creativity. Technology is transforming filmmaking.

The London Film Festival itself exploits modern technology, including live streaming of its red carpet galas to cinemas across the country and use of its own BFI player for festival related content. London overall is a place where technical skills abound in the new digital crafts around post-production, special effects and 3D.

But this article is not about the digital revolution in the making of film; it is about how technology is increasingly part of the dramatic content of film, and how technology and especially digital technology is represented. The examples are – naturally enough – drawn from the London Film Festival.

The inspiration for the article was accidental. I had booked each film I wanted to see for the normal reasons – I liked the look of the film, or respected the filmmakers, or was interested in the buzz surrounding the movie. But, as I watched each of them – usually somewhere in Leicester Square – I was struck by how often technology intruded, and how often directors tried to find ways of representing technology in general, and specifically n the digital world, on screen.

Mr. Turner

Let’s start in an unlikely place with Mr. Turner. It is a marvellous film, from director Mike Leigh. It is a biography of perhaps the greatest English painter JMW Turner (1775 to 1851) who was known as “the painter of light” and who anticipated both Impressionism and modern Abstract Art.

Set in the first half of the 19th Century, it succeeds at recreating the period with a sense of truth that is unusually powerful – through its authentic and sometimes very funny dialogue, its recreation of the manners and moral temper of the period, and its careful choice of locations.

It shows off Turner’s art of course – and is visually rich and sometimes stunning – but the film also brings to life the man himself: a successful, eccentric and harrumphing curmudgeon born outside the establishment, who then became very much part of it. Turner is vividly played by Timothy Spall, with ungainly confidence and much humour.

But one of the most unexpected parts of the film for me was the way it shows an older Turner experiencing changes in 19th century society, and especially the impact of technology. Mike Leigh successfully conveys a deep sense of the move from the Georgian to the truly industrial Victorian era.

Examples: the means of passage from London to Margate changes from steamer to train during the film. There is a wonderful, funny sequence where Turner and his mistress are photographed by an American master of this new technology. He is armed with the latest cameras and equipment, including a head brace to help with long exposures. During this process, Turner ponders on the future effects on art.

And in one of the grandest sequences of the film, Turner and a group of friends watch the tall-masted and exhausted warship The Fighting Temeraire being towed to its break-up by a steam tug. This was to inspire what is one of the most famous, reproduced and loved paintings by a British artist.

During the scene, one of Turner’s companions looks at the great tall ship and remarks melancholically: “The ghost of the past.”

Turner prefers instead to observe the blackened, low shape of the steam tug: “No,” he shouts back, “The past is the past. You’re observing the future! Smoke. Iron. Steam!”

This presentation of technology, as a set of dynamic changes and images seen through the curious eyes of an artist is highly effective. The film ends up being as much a biography of the early Victorian age – a age of steam, coal, industry and transformation, with the young Albert and Victoria putting in an appearance themselves – as it is a biography of Turner.

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game moves us directly into the first days of the digital era. Indeed a key moment of the film, set during World War II, is when Keira Knightly pronounces the phrase “digital computer” awkwardly, as though it is being said in the world for the very first time.

The film is a biographic study of Alan Turing, played with suitable coldness and fragility by Benedict Cumberbatch. Turing was a taut, difficult personality often backwards diagnosed as autistic. He was a mathematician, cryptologist, and one of the first computer scientists, introducing many key foundations of that discipline. The name of the film itself is taken from one of Turing’s papers where he develops the concept of the Turing Test. This is a test for whether machines can ever think, and whether they could ever imitate a human mind.

It is a brilliant choice of title, since the film is about deceit at many levels – including the original Enigma codes, the hiding of the success of Allied code-breaking and the passing of false information to the Russians. Above all, there is the hidden nature of Turing’s own sexuality in a time when male homosexuality was a criminal offence.

The bulk of the film’s plot – with quite a lot of dramatic simplification- is centred on the breaking of the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park. The resulting intelligence was labelled Ultra (from Ultra Secret), and Churchill would later tell King George VI: “It was thanks to Ultra that we won the war.” The film itself repeats the common suggestion that ultra shaved two full years of the war.

In the film, the core of this process is a computer-like device – a bombe in the terminology of the time – that eventually is successfully programmed to break German encrypted messages on a daily basis. Turing’s efforts to design, build and operate the machine, and manage the team around it, occupies much of the story.

The visual and dramatic vocabulary that the film uses to describe its technology is taken straight from 1950s Science Fiction. In some ways, this is a perfect choice, since the 1940s wartime acceleration of technology would influence the world-view of the 1950s. So, we have common archetypes such as:

  • The central character of a lonely, arrogant boffin, dressed in tweed, who has a mission to save the world. Indeed, Turing is warned several times in the film to avoid thinking of himself as God.
  • Plain speaking, slight dim military men who’s job seems to be to place obstacles in the way of the hero
  • Sudden moments of inspiration where a chance remark opens the door to the instant resolution of a complex problem.
  • Diagrams and mathematical text assembled in great linked masses showing the workings of another “Beautiful Mind”
  • The great machine itself, a clunking mass of cylinders and valves that rotate remorselessly – like a vision of a Babbage difference engine. It reminded me of the whirl of mechanical computation machines in the classic “When Worlds Collide”.

The vision of technology here is cold, hard-edged and relentless – similar to Turing himself. Overall, the film succeeds – it is a good,moving and watchable piece of work, with strong performances throughout, but perhaps the plot works itself a little too mechanically, simulating the code-breaking machine at its heart.

Men, Women and Children

This film – by Jason Reitman and starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner and a large ensemble cast – is completely contemporary. It is about the lives of middle-class Americans, and how modern motivations and complexities are wired together by personal and social technology. It is based on an original novel by the controversial author Chad Kultgen.

Technology is represented in two ways. Firstly, there is a sequence of digital special effect sequences of the Voyager missions to the outer solar system, narrated by Emma Thompson. The connecting link between these sequences and the rest of the film is through the use of words – at the very end of the film – that Carl Sagan wrote about the “Pale Blue Dot” photo. This famous image was taken by one of the Voyager probes of the distant Earth as a final act of observation. The sequences are beautiful, and the narration sometimes very funny, but this part of the film feels a little contrived and unnecessary.

 The second representation of technology – of websites and social media – is much more relevant and direct. This is not achieved through conventional shots of a PC or smartphone screen, but via pop-up windows on screen that represent what is being shown on a device. These appear beside the main antagonists in the film, popping in and out of existence like speech or thought bubbles. This is effective, and helps the narrative flow. It soon seems strangely natural. It is also provides opportunities for real humour, when people text what they really thinking of the person they are talking to.  

The themes covered are those social issues generated or amplified by technology. One example plotline: the character Tim Mooney (played by Ansel Elgort) is a schoolboy football player of real talent. But he quits the sport – to the vast disapproval of his father Kent (Dean Norris) – to obsessively play online games. He also learns of his absent mother’s new marriage via Facebook. Increasingly alienated, he finds solace in a relationship with intellectual, book-reading teenager Brandy Beltmeyer (Kaitlyn Dever).

Her mother Patrica (played with steel by Jennifer Garner) is one of the strongest characters in the film. Her obsession is the Internet life of her daughter, which she monitors, restricts and controls with total authority before she finds out that her daughter has a secret and rebellious alternative web identity. This sets up a near tragic incident, where Patrica impersonates her daughter to persuade Tom that their relationship is over. As a consequence, Tom takes an overdose that he barely survives.

Another examples of the film’s threads include a teenager so corrupted by pornography he cannot form a normal relationship, a married couple who organise parallel infidelities via websites, a teenager who damages her life chances by putting too racy images on the web, and another – borderline anorexic – who gets advice on extreme dieting from virtual friends on the web.

There is much humour, especially at the beginning, but in the end the film takes a grim view of humanity. However, the representation of the technology works well, and allows parallel threads of plot and meaning to be shown on screen. It is a successful recreation of people’s abstract virtual lives.

Dearest and Rosewater

Both these films are reconstructions of real stories, where technology is part of the story, but not the prime driver. Both were – for me – unexpectedly moving, and illuminated very different cultures.

“Dearest” is a Chinese film, directed by Peter Chan, which covers the sensitive subject of child abduction in China. Although fictionalizsed, it is based on a true story that Chan came across in a TV documentary. It is well acted, humane and gives real insight into the social world of modern China.

Tian Wenjun (Huang Bo) and his ex-wife Lu Xiaojuan (Hao Lei) lose their child PengPeng through abduction. They spend three years searching – using the web as a means of communicating across the vastness of China, and connecting with others in their situation. Eventually, they locate their son in a remote village. The film then – remarkably and successfully – switches its point of view entirely to the heartbroken woman Li Hongqin (Zhao Wei) who has been looking after the abducted child.

In Dearest, the technology dimension is treated entirely conventionally, with the focus always on the actors. It is well made, and a delightful film, but rooted in traditional filmmaking.

“Rosewater” is the story of London-based journalist Maziar Bahari (played by Gael García Bernal) who was detained in Iran for 100 days, while his British and pregnant girlfriend waited for him in London. It was written and directed by Jon Stewart, who was connected with the case.

The film starts with Bahari getting increasingly involved in the events around the Iranian presidential elections, and their violent aftermath. He is arrested and spends four months in solitary at Evin Prison, being interrogated by a “specialist”. Since he is blind-folded, his experience of the interrogator is through the scent of rosewater that surrounds him.

Technology threads itself through the film in two ways. It is shown as one of the motors of change in Iran, with the opposition fluent in use of the web and internet. TV news has also connected Iranian youth to the wider world. At one point, Bahari is introduced to a “university” that is simply a vast array of satellite dishes, hidden from the security forces. The last scene in the film is of a small boy filming the destruction of the nest of dishes by police. He is using a smart phone.

There is also a sequence that starts with Bahari in the depths of despair. He is convinced that the world has forgotten entirely about him. He has been told that his girl-friend has not contacted the Iranian authorities. But then a security guard mentions that Hilary Clinton has been talking about him. In that instance, he realises he absolutely has not been forgotten, and he is actually famous and the subject of much outside debate. That awakening is captured in the use of an animation sequence that shows information and keywords spreading around the world. It is out of kilter with the naturalistic feel of the rest of the film, and reminded me of the use of maps to show travel and the passing of time in films from the 40s and 50s. But it is effective, and a compact means of making the point.


Technology, and a sense of technical change and opportunity is everywhere in society, and everywhere in the world. That is influencing the mirror of film – only one of the films above was directly about the use of technology, but technology pervades all of them. This presents filmmakers with a challenge – especially when the technology is digital. How we represent the drama and rhythm of lives that are part virtual becomes an interesting and essential question. Soon I suspect someone will make a breakthrough film which tackles and answers that question head-on.

I look forward to it