Erasing David


Thanks to Cherwell the Oxford Uni Paper for this great review.

Review: Erasing David

by Jane-Marie Saldanha | 15:55 GMT, Wed 14 April 2010

Photo: Amanda Lockhart

Erasing David follows David Bond as he decides to go on the run. Leaving behind his daughter and pregnant wife, he attempts to uncover the truth about the nature and lack of personal information in our country today. This is done through a series of meetings with victims and enforcers of information collection, interviews with privacy experts and David Bond’s ongoing attempts to evade two hired private investigators.

All of which makes this film sound less like the small British documentary that it is and more like a Hollywood thriller. And it does bare some resemblances to that particular genre. The eerie music composed by the Golden Globe winning Michael Nyman, jittery camera shots and the rising sense of paranoia ensure that the film is far more entertaining than the average anti-surveillance documentary. Having said that, this film is certainly about more than quick thrills – it is a perturbing exposé of the rapid loss of privacy in Britain.

Often, the film isn’t telling us anything we don’t already know. Most British people are probably aware that their details and web browsing history are stored, that their thrown out mail is easy to get to and that information databases are prone to error. What Erasing David does is give viewers an insight into the sheer magnitude of stored information in these databases on every single British citizen and how revealing this personal information can be when put together.

This is demonstrated in one of the film’s most unsettling scenes, when David Bond visits a private investigator’s office in which he sees hundreds of documents, pictures and maps pinned to the wall which collectively seem to expose everything about him. Things like his daughter’s date of birth, a photo of his mother, the name of his secondary school; information which on its own is not threatening and information which any of us could have given up to databases in the past without a second thought.

The truly impressive thing about Erasing David is that it manages to be deeply affecting without becoming uncomfortably dramatic. By the end of the film, it’s very easy to feel quite frightened. But what of? There are no tangible villains at all. We meet a perfectly polite woman who has installed fingerprinting devices in a school to take the register and even the private investigators never seem sinister, mainly because most of their tricks are carried out with such ease. Any of us could type a name into a social networking site or use a birthday to find out the time and date of a hospital appointment. There isn’t even a sense of some malevolent forces at work. We have little to pin our anxiety to, other than the general sense that as a country we’ve taken a step too far in the direction of security at the cost of our privacy.

For most of its 80 minute running time, Erasing David is a skilfully balanced film. Politically minded without straying into polemic and personal without losing its objectiveness, it will certainly make you think twice about the information you share every day.

Star rating – four stars

Erasing David will be shown at Picturehouses across the country on the 29th of April followed by a live streamed Q&A with Will Self, Michael Nyman, Shami Chakrabarti and David Davis

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