DocEdge 2011: Erasing David

Erasing David
UK | 2009 | Dir. David Bond, Melinda McDougall | English |80 mins.

The UK is one of the most invasive surveillance states in the world—it is third only to China and Russia in terms of monitoring its populace. There are over four million closed-circuit television cameras in the UK, and one million in the city of London alone—meaning there are more cameras per person in England than anywhere else in the world. Companies of all sorts, public and private, store customer data and other information in databases many times larger than those used in official capacities by various government departments. Social media and various Internet-based outlets collect demographic information and retain purchase records long after transactions have taken place.

In this film, David Bond tests the abilities of a duo of private investigators, aptly nicknamed “Cerberus,” whom he chooses to try and “hunt him down” when he attempts to disappear completely for a month, leaving his infant son and pregnant wife at home. They build a dossier on him by rifling through his trash and cracking his various Internet accounts, including his email. Meanwhile, David visits his parents in the Midlands—as close to the “middle of nowhere” as he can get. The film’s downfall is not this James Bond-style covert operation, but its attempts, intermingled with footage of David on the run, to interview ‘experts’ on privacy and surveillance. These backfire not because they aren’t well-planned or professionally executed, but because they aren’t given enough space and time to be of any use. The other half, though—David on the run—is thrilling right up to the end, propelled to its inevitable conclusion by music from Michael Nyman.