USERS – Documentary Review

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Mexican-American filmmaker Natalia Almada’s documentary, Users, is a poetic and profoundly provocative delve into the complex intersection of nature and technology in human civilization, present and future. The film presents itself as 81-minute meditation on the ways in which our increasing dependence on technology will impact our future generations, and those who are being birthed in the present. Don’t expect a delineated thesis or linear narrative of any sort. Almada juxtaposes images of the natural world — rushing water, clouds, pristine forests — with those of technological wonders — mechanized indoor crop growing and harvesting, soaring communications towers, streamline vehicles — to suggest the unfathomable complexity of our modern environment, civilization and culture.

And throughout the film, there are babies whom we watch as they grow into toddlers and, then, youngsters who will in 20 years be living in a world that will look and feel and be very different from our present reality and circumstances. A very soothing voice over (which we discover to be a tech-created simulation) drops in from time to time over all the mesmerizing natural sound and the film’s compelling score (beautifully delivered by the Kronos Quartet), suggesting a mother’s consideration about our species’ present and future, and keeping us focused. The documentary’s absorbing perspective is a sobering one.

The film, which won the Sundance Film Festival’s Directing Award in the US Documentary Competition, is a brilliant addition to the recent catalogue of non-linear, narration-free, impressionistic, ‘think-y’ films — think Anthropocene: The Human Epoch and Aquarela, if you’re looking for examples — that push the envelope of our perceptions and guide us to important thoughts we didn’t know we have.

Users is the Alliance of Women Film Journalists Movie of the Week for June 9, 2023


Title: Users

Director: Natalia Almada

Release Date: June 9, 2023

Running Time: 81 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriters: Natalia Almada (Documentary narration)

Distribution Company: Film Constellation, Altamura Films

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