Terraqueos: vestígios de uma era digital (Remains of a Digital Age), Directed by Frederico Ruas
Terraqueos: vestígios de uma era digital (Remains of a Digital Age, or literally, Earthlings: Remains of a Digital Age) is an ambitious film. Its subject? The entirety of life on Earth. A snapshot, if you will, of the current state of the world as told through internet-researched material and ‘dedicated to archaeologists from the future and other planets’. The wide scope of its subject is initially quite attractive; in the end, however, this film fails to live up to its promise. [Content Warning: detailed violence]
A feature-length documentary based entirely upon material acquired from the World Wide Web is an interesting choice of medium from which to construct a picture of the modern world. The film comprises a multiplicity of assorted videos (365 of them, in fact) – taken straight from the internet and assembled together to form a feature film. Each is a snapshot of a particular geographical area in time, and each reveals different aspects of life on Earth.
The videos alternate between various themes: the natural world plays a large role in this film; so do humans: their love as well as their cruelty. The film’s foundation of internet videos allows the documentary ‘camera’ to go anywhere and everywhere cameras have ever been: home videos, cityscapes, ocean environments, war zones, small tribal communities, intimate romantic encounters, and even the depths of outer space feature prominently in this film. If it is on the internet, it is not immune from the gaze of director Frederico Ruas (whose internet research forms the foundation of the film).
The subject matter is, at times, significant, featuring at once the natural world and the world of humans, as well as the interaction between them. And even when unsavoury, the subjects occasionally provide important insight; indeed, a strength of this film is its forthright presentation of the horrors of human cruelty. The film focusses on murder, rape, torture, suicide, mutilation, and all manner of violence in the modern world. It appropriately concentrates its documentary criticism on ‘the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today’ (the American government). Scenes feature horrifying imagery of the 2011 military intervention in Libya in what the documentary labels ‘the worst crimes’ of the bombardment in Sirte. These are crimes against children, and the film does not shy away from presenting them conspicuously. Director Frederico Ruas delivers a powerful political and moral message that ably utilises film and its editing as a medium for communicating criticism, horror, disbelief.
For the most part, though, the film fails to live up to its potential. While the breadth of the documentary subject – everything – is initially attractive, the subject matter is consistently off-putting, the film quality is frequently poor, and the film overall is disappointing. The editing is effective at times, especially in the more political sequences when images of carnage and insanity juxtapose powerfully with the calm features of an American president or a journalist. And there are recognisable themes that mould the film’s trajectory (nature, love, sex, violence), but in general these are ill-defined. The result is a muddled picture of modern life. It lacks narrative. It lacks definition. What promises to be an exploration of the modern world turns out to be little more than an amalgamation of unpleasant YouTube videos mashed together to form a feature film.
The trailer, on the other hand, is fantastic (and can be viewed below). It has a narrative arc, forward motion, clear definition, and exciting commentary on modern life. The problem, then, is this: the film promises more than it delivers. The conception is brilliant: a digital time capsule for the archaeologists of the future to help them understand the wreckage of our civilisation. The execution is well-done at times, but mostly it just falls flat. Perhaps the quality and selection of YouTube videos limits the communicatory possibility of this kind of film, but it is more likely that the selection, editing, construction of the feature-length narrative arc, and overall execution could have been better. We need look no further than the film’s own trailer for proof that film composed of internet material can be compelling. The solution is perhaps a shorter, more defined film rather than a long and unwieldy one.
What promises to be an exploration of the modern world turns out to be little more than an amalgamation of unpleasant YouTube videos mashed together to form a feature film.
If this film attempts to narrate, it fails to do so. If, on the other hand, it attempts to thwart linear narrative with the non-traditional intention of an art film (as seems to be the case), it fails also in this respect. Even the most impenetrable art film has purpose and meaning – even if its very purpose is to thwart traditional expectations of meaning. And if there is an expectation that an audience will sit through the whole thing, there is then also a responsibility to that audience. It is insulting to create something incomprehensible without reason. Terraqueos is not incomprehensible, but neither is it entertaining nor brilliant. It is merely a good idea gone awry. ■
Runtime: 1 hour 21 minutes
Genre: Documentary, New Media
Language: Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
Find out more
Find out more about Terraqueos: vestígios de uma era digital (Remains of a Digital Age) and independent Brazilian filmmaker Frederico Ruas on the pages for Terraqueos and Frederico Ruas in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), the film’s website, and the film’s page on Facebook.
Frederico Ruas is an award-winning independent Brazilian filmmaker. His film Sem mais delongas was awarded at the 20º SET Universitário in Porto Alegre, Brazil and at the Mostra Independente de Audiovisual Universitário in Goiás, Brazil. His video Audiência extraordinária was awarded at a short film competition promoted by Controladoria Geral da União. He produced and edited A copa das pessoas (People’s Cup), a branded documentary which has been awarded the Galo de Ouro at the Gramado Advertising Festival and was selected for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. He writes for the script company Coelho Voador creating television series projects such as Lei de Gérson, ClímaXXX and A Benção, the latter two of which were finalists in a contest promoted by NET, Brazil’s largest cable company. Terraqueos: vestígios de uma era digital (Remains of a Digital Age) is Ruas’ first feature film.
A trailer for Terraqueos: vestígios de uma era digital (Remains of a Digital Age) can be viewed below:
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: A scene from ‘Terraqueos: vestígios de uma era digital’. Anti Filmes.