Film & TV

MIFF Review: Web

In 2006, the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program, a project founded in Cambridge and cosupported by the Miami-based One Laptop per Child Association, implemented a project to give laptop computers to children in developing countries. The culture shock of people in locations without running water but possible internet connectivity intrigued filmmaker Michael Kleiman. After visiting isolated villages in Peru, the director has come back with Web, a sprightly documentary pondering the notion of globalization while putting a face on those affected by the OLPC program. Kleiman uses fast-paced scenes of his computer desktop surfing through YouTube, Facebook, and Google to educate the viewer by proxy, and blends that with earthy scenes of life in the village, where people raise guinea pigs for lunch. Though it often feels like an idealistic work celebrating a benevolent program, Kleiman does not avoid the possible negative impact: the tendency of globalization to homogenize cultures. Google searches and Facebook friendships have been seen as one of the subtly socially divisive tools in erasing individuality and identity. Web smartly touches on that point, for Kleiman understands it's also a Pandora's box. When one villager tells Kleiman "Don't forget us," it's as if the man is begging for the preservation of his culture.

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Hans Morgenstern has contributed to Miami New Times for too many decades, but he's grown to love Miami's arts and culture scene because of it. He is the chair of the Florida Film Critics Circle, and most of his film criticism can be found on Independent Ethos (indieethos.com) if not in New Times.