Saturday, January 7, 2012

Daedalum Films Presents

"Human Flesh Search Engine" is a short documentary film by Daedalum Films that seeks to find out "what [the Human Flesh Search Engine] can it tell us about modern China." Directed, produced, and narrated by Luis A. Tapia, the documentary does an amazing job of bringing the Human Flesh Search Engine to life, delving deep into its origins and bringing faces to many of the online investigations that have both enacted justice and brought down the lives on those targeted. The film is cinematically beautiful and directs the viewer's full attention from start to finish.

The documentary begins with Part I: Origins and Cases which introduces the phenomena and the origin of it's name. Tapia explains that the direct translation of the name "Human Flesh" is most notably used in all instances of this "online scavenger hunt" being displayed notoriously in western media. Yet he questions if this literal translation is appropriate - when in fact the term "human-powered search engine" might better serve. Throughout the film Tapia's knowledge of Chinese culture and command of the language are apparent.

The film gives a strong background on how the term was coined and became popularly used in China from it's beginnings with and the "human-powered" search engine's spread throughout other forum-based websites. As the film delves into some of the most notorious cases in recent years, Tapia uses a wealth of knowledge for each instance, citing websites where the search engine began, and including photos and video footage when available. The documentary continues to showcase the galvanizing effects the stories have on netizens, and how those netizens have worked to uncover the identity and location of those at fault, mentioning how the search engine's mob mentality can ruin the lives of those targeted, but also bring about justice to others.

What I really appreciated was how Tapia mentioned the positive aspects of the phenomena; that the human-powered searches are not solely used to uncover the identities of those who commit wrongs to society. As mentioned in my thesis, the documentary explains how the search engine masses can work to locate missing people, as seen in the aftermath of the Sichuan Earthquake or through the website Ren Rou Wang.

My review of the second part should be coming shortly - at present a password is required to view it on Daedalum's website, which I've inquired about how to obtain.

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