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‘The New Radical’ Sundance Review: Provocative Doc Examines Charismatic Anarchist


“The New Radical” is designed to induce discomfort. How could it not? At the heart of this stirring documentary is a divisive figure, someone who not only warrants controversy, but invites it.

This man is Cody Wilson, an Austin, Texas, resident and self-proclaimed crypto-anarchist and gun rights activist. The latter descriptor (“gun activist”) is something consistently debated within the confines of director Adam Bhala Lough’s prismatic portrait. It’s this ongoing ethical and moral debate that makes the film so ideologically riveting.

It’s unlikely a film about Wilson could be made any other way. The polemical 20-year-old garnered worldwide attention in 2012, when he and his cohorts, under the banner Defense Distributed, kickstarted the “Wiki Weapon Project,” a vigorous attempt to raise money both to design and release the downloadable files of the 3D printable gun. In short: an open source creation that would allow anyone with a 3D printer to, in theory, self-manufacture a weapon.

Also Read: New York Times Op-Docs Make Presence Felt at Oscars, Sundance[1]

Naturally, Wilson’s newfangled (and potentially harmful) piece of machinery didn’t set well with everyone. Many were (and still are) mortified by the prospect of 3D gun-printing becoming a staple in America. As presented in the film, dissenters believe it will engender more violence, more bloodshed.

The absence of thorough background checks and the emergence of unfettered power is, for detractors, too unnerving to fathom. Wilson, conversely, unspools erudite proclamations, extolling the virtues of free-market anarchism and an armed citizenry, resulting in what he believes is the only way to have a pure form of democracy. Clips interspersed throughout the film show Wilson defending his position to talk-show hosts, evening news anchors and skeptical reporters.

Each on-air interview reveals Wilson’s brilliance. They also reveal his smugness.

Also Read: Sundance Film Reviews: ‘City of Ghosts’ and ‘Cries From Syria’ Showcase Heroes, Victims[2] When it comes to the presentation of Wilson, “The New Radical” finds itself somewhere in the middle.

Electing neither to condemn nor celebrate, Bhala Lough skillfully walks that delicate line throughout the film. This isn’t to suggest the movie is without perspective, opinion or voice; it’s clear that those involved with the project have at least some admiration for Wilson. That admiration isn’t limited to the filmmakers, though.

In the form of a diptych, “The New Radical” pivots to the brazen British programmer Amir Taaki. In the midst of Wilson’s public ascendancy, Taaki reached out. He was intrigued by Wilson’s politics.

Their bond, as the film relays, evolved into a business called Dark Wallet, a Bitcoin app that allows its users to go dark in the face of government oppression. Wilson and Taaki claim it’s the people’s way to combat Big Brother oversight. There’s more nuance and complexity to these concepts, and the documentary does a phenomenal job of covering a lot of ground.

Only occasionally does it feel like Bhala Lough is keeping the movie apolitical. Is it the responsibility of the documentarian to take a position? Should films of this nature abstain from editorial comments, or should they interject?

The truth is, nothing in “The New Radical” is crafted without rhyme or reason. Each segment presented is, in and of itself, a comment on Wilson and Taaki; it can’t help but be. But there is a conversation to be had about Bhala Lough’s responsibility to question and interrogate these grand concepts.

He is not a journalist — nor did he position himself as one — but as the presenter of such information, the director is not immune from such questions.

See Video: Watch Barbara Kopple, Marti Noxon Talk Digital-Age Indies on Facebook Live[3] Based on what we’re shown in “The New Radical,” Wilson is a charismatic individual — handsome, whip-smart and well-spoken. His ability to deconstruct counter-arguments is impressive.

His ideas, though, are potentially very dangerous, especially if they go unchallenged and unchecked. Philosophically, Wilson may be onto something; waging war against a system that has little interest in servicing its citizenry makes sense. Promoting a democracy, and not an oligarchy, that is actually ruled by the people, makes sense.

Wilson is not without logic; but he is without perceptible policy. There are no clear answers to derive from Wilson and “The New Radical,” but the film does offer an internal monologue that, over time, can start a conversation. By nature of its central subject, it’s a piece of work that infuriates and excites.

It’s a deeply upsetting movie, and then, sporadically, a hopeful one.

14 Hottest Sundance Movies for Sale: From Degenerate Nuns to Sexting Angelenos (Photos)

  • Park City, Utah, is about to be flush with cash — and we’re not talking about buying apres-ski gear. Here are the most promising sales titles of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

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    “Brigsby Bear”
    Kyle Mooney (“SNL”) leads an impressive ensemble in what seems to be a millennial take on “The Truman Show.” The title refers to a children’s TV show made for an audience of one — a boy named James, whose life changes after the show’s abrupt end. Dave McCary directs from a script by Mooney and Kevin Costello.

    Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear and Michaela Watkins co-star.

  • Sundance 2017 The Big Sick

    “The Big Sick”
    Socially relevant fare that’s based on a true story is often a winning combination for Sundance features. “Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani and girlfriend Emily V. Gordon wrote this true tale of bridging cultural divides among their families while navigating their careers and romance.

  • Sundance 2017 Beach Rats

    “Beach Rats”
    Multiple programmers, sales agents and content buyers told TheWrap they’re all keen to see this thoroughly modern drama from Eliza Hittman. The movie stars Harris Dickinson as a Brooklyn teen with a grim home life, a budding romance with a female friend and a predilection for meeting up with older men he connects with online.

  • sundance 2017 rooney mara casey affleck a ghost story

    “A Ghost Story”
    David Lowery reunites with his “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck for a chamber drama about a man who dies, and is forced to watch his loved one grieve over expanses of time.

  • The Hero

    “The Hero”
    Sam Elliott stars as an aging country legend confronting his demons (territory that netted Jeff Bridges an Oscar in 2010 for “Crazy Heart”).

    The film also stars “Orange Is the New Black” star Laura Prepon, which may make it hard for Netflix to resist scooping it up.

  • Roxanne Roxanne Sundance 2017

    “Roxanne, Roxanne”
    As he keeps chugging along the road to the Academy Awards, “Moonlight” star Mahershala Ali comes to Park City with “Roxanne, Roxanne” — the story of Lolita “Roxanne Shant?” Gooden, who became a fierce rap battle queen at age 14. Chante Adams stars in this real-life story from writer-director Michael Larnell.

  • The Yellow Birds Sundance 2017

    “The Yellow Birds”
    Alexander Moors (“Blue Caprice”) offers up this tale of young Iraq war veterans, which boasts hot up-and-coming stars Alden Ehrenreich (the new Han Solo) and Tye Sheridan. The tale unfolds as a mystery, with a fallen hero’s mother (Jennifer Aniston) and a tough-as-nails military official (Jason Patric) searching for answers in a young man’s death.

  • Step Sundance 2017

    “Step”
    One of numerous hot docs in Park City, Amanda Lipitz’s opus follows a team of step dancers in Baltimore — an inspiring group of inner-city girls living in the midst of social unrest.

  • To The Bone Sundance 2017

    “To the Bone”
    Marti Noxon, a longtime symbol of female empowerment in TV for her work on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “UnREAL,” makes her feature directorial debut with a pitch-black comedy about her own struggle with anorexia.

    The film stars Lily Collins and Keanu Reeves.

  • Jenny Slate Landline Sundance 2017

    “Landline”
    Director Gillian Robespierre reunites with her “Obvious Child” star Jenny Slate for a tale of lying, cheating and Manhattanite family bonds. Slate produces; Edie Falco, John Turturro, Finn Wittrock and Jay Duplass co-star.

  • Jack Black The Polka King Sundance 2017

    “The Polka King”
    Jack Black descends on Utah with a meaty role as a Bernie Madoff for the indie music scene. In Maya Forbes’ indie Black plays Polish immigrant Jan Lewan — who became the “King of Pennsylvania Polka” in the 1990s, bribing and cheating investors along the way.

  • The Little Hours Sundance 2017

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    Director Jeff Baena continues to surprise, this time with a quiet riot of a film about extremely misbehaving nuns in an Italian hamlet.

    Reunited with his real-life girlfriend and star Aubrey Plaza (“Life After Beth”) and producer Liz Destro, “Little Hours” sees a medieval convent go insane after a sexy day laborer (Dave Franco) moves in.

  • Golden Exits Sundace 2017

    “Golden Exits”
    Director Alex Ross Perry and star Emily Browning help bring two infighting New York families together. A prototypical indie drama with pedigree, it co-stars Mary-Louise Parker, Lily Rabe, Jason Schwartzman, Chloe Sevigny, Adam Horowitz and Analeigh Tipton.

  • Newness Sundance 2017

    “Newness”
    Drake Doremus (“Like Crazy”) returns to Sundance with another drama about young romance. This time, his “Equals” star Nicholas Hoult and newcomer Laia Costa play a contemporary L.A. couple navigating “a social media-driven hookup culture,” whose relationship pushes multiple boundaries.

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Streaming companies and indie distributors will battle it out for these movies

Park City, Utah, is about to be flush with cash — and we’re not talking about buying apres-ski gear.

Here are the most promising sales titles of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

References

  1. ^ New York Times Op-Docs Make Presence Felt at Oscars, Sundance (www.thewrap.com)
  2. ^ Sundance Film Reviews: ‘City of Ghosts’ and ‘Cries From Syria’ Showcase Heroes, Victims (www.thewrap.com)
  3. ^ Watch Barbara Kopple, Marti Noxon Talk Digital-Age Indies on Facebook Live (www.thewrap.com)

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