Posted by Tom Jeffry

An article about the upcoming AFI Festival in last Friday’s Los Angeles Times focused on a controversy around one of the film festival’s productions by Adam Rifkin titled “LOOK.” 

The description for this movie set forth in the AFI Festival Guide states: “There are approximately 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States capturing covert images of average Americans as much as 200 times a day. They're watching in department stores, gas stations, changing rooms, public bathrooms — seemingly no one and nowhere are free from the dispassionate eye of the hidden camera. LOOK pieces together this rush of information, finding several provocative, interwoven storylines amid the noise of life in a random city.” To drive home the point, a photo that accompanies the description depicts two scantly clad young women in a department store dressing room.

According to the Los Angeles Times article, this was too much for the customers of a local, upscale grocery chain who is one of the sponsors of the festival and who pulled hard copies of the guide from the check-out racks at their stores. 

The photo is not as shocking as the premise that someone could make an entire film ‘peeping’ through the lens of a surveillance camera. There appears to be a disconnect between what the public generally perceives as ‘private’ and what is in fact private. The movie makers apparently make this point by violating the average person’s notion of personal privacy. In a review of LOOK, Lane Kneedler writes:

“No one is spared from the relentless, unblinking eyes of the surveillance cameras that are now hidden in every nook and cranny of day-to-day American life. The average citizen is captured nearly 200 times a day—in department stores, gas stations, changing rooms, and even public bathrooms. Shot entirely from the point of view of the security cameras, Adam Rifkin's film reveals the things people do when they don’t know they’re being watched.”

In a statement responding to the article, Mr. Rifkin claims that it is legal in 37 states to have video cameras in public dressing rooms and bathrooms.   I did not verify whether this claim is accurate. Nevertheless, it is disturbing that surveillance cameras capture unsuspecting individuals in private situations and raises the question on the appropriate level of government regulation and oversight on these activities. 

Until then, remember that Big Brother Hollywood is watching . . .