Erasing David: The man who tried to disappear
By Stephen Parkinson |29 April 2010 |Categories: Culture
So far today you’ve probably used your Oyster Card, used your mobile phone, viewed websites, maybe shopped online too. And all that data is stored, assigned to your profile, and giving a partial snapshot of your life.
Prompted by a letter telling him that his data had been lost in the notorious misplacement of Government data-discs, documentary-maker David Bond decided to take the only logical step, and disappear.
The resultant documentary, Erasing David, interlaces Bond’s attempts to evade capture by two security experts by leaving his heavily pregnant wife and children at home and travelling to the UK countryside and mainland Europe, with investigation into data collection and use. Think a low budget documentary version of The Conversation, cut with The Bourne Identity.
This division of the subject results in a film of varying quality. Intriguing (and worrying) sequences regarding fingerprints of school-children, CCTV coverage, personal data held by websites and hospitals all provide footage which would be suited to a television-based investigative documentary, and illustrate the breadth and depth of the data collection to which we are all subject, often unknowingly.
However the low-fi chase, which provides the human drama and tension-building narrative is less convincing. In fact, given that the security experts tracking David barely touch on data-collection, resorting instead to old-fashioned investigating, the nagging doubt arises that this half of the documentary doesn’t relate to the other. The process of disappearing from ‘the system’ is only briefly touched upon, and as a result the majority of the documentary has a disconnect with the original proposal.
Erasing David is an interesting watch (although better suited to the smaller screen), with prescient points to make about identity and surveillance, but somewhat clouded by a mixed up narrative.