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Caught on Camera

All-light-everywhere-movie-review
Corey Hughes/Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
All Light, Everywhere (2021)

“All Light, Everywhere” is an exposé on the police state that spotlights Axon, a company that offers a range of "public safety” products such as Tasers, police body cameras and drones. The documentary is so clinical in its depiction of the blind spots of surveillance that it sometimes recalls those unconscious-bias training videos some of your white colleagues love to complain about. But its revelations are nevertheless interesting, even if its approach is anything but.

Director Theo Anthony makes a cogent case that surveillance videos are far from neutral, because they are susceptible to framing by the authorities. Just like human vision, police body cams are limited in their range of view – specifically, they are fixed to the perspective of law enforcement. The film further reveals that as part of the Axon ecosystem, body cam footage is automatically uploaded to a central server. Police can review the footage before making a statement in court, and retroactively create a narrative to justify their use of force.

After a summer of Black Lives Matter protests, it’s shocking to see some Black residents in Baltimore speaking in favor of a drone surveillance program proposed by Axon during its town hall presentation. Even if there’s impartiality within the supposed god’s-eye view, authorities would still be scrutinizing with heightened intensity those areas they deem “historically high-crime” – which, as anyone can guess, would be economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The film argues that this line of thinking behind predictive policing isn’t dissimilar from the racist principles behind eugenics and racial profiling.

Overall, “All Light, Everywhere” is an eye-opener that challenges the presupposed benefits of the police state industrial complex, which have been persuasive even for people most adversely affected – as demonstrated by the above-mentioned Baltimore scene. Its ultimate message has strong libertarian resonance, so it’ll be interesting to see how it’s received by both sides of this debate.

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