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We all go to fair play in the world

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When it was first shown on Sundance a year ago, We all go to the World Fair She can’t help but look like a mirror held up in front of her audience, reflecting the solitude of the ordinary virtual viewer. I helped experience this moody, small-budget mood for months after months of the pandemic, and through my laptop screen, the same black hole sucking in our teenage heroine. However, the film’s resonance extends inches beyond the confines of our private moment, transcending immediate loneliness now to indefinite loneliness now. For as long as we’ve had the internet, we’ve had movies about the internet. Is it too early, or is it an exaggeration to describe it We all go to the World Fair As one of the most insightful of them all?

Casey (Anna Cobb, striking in what the opening credits reveal is her debut) lives in nowhere in America, a barren little town of empty fields and deserted R-us toy car parks. We never see her parents, and only hear them once; Bellows for silence in the dead of night and on the other side of the wall, they seem as far away from her as her fellow trawlers and YouTube artists she follows. Like a similar name Kayla from Eighth rank Eighth grade Eighth rankIn this shocking film, Casey’s Sunny Yin Liang has no apparent friends or social life. Unlike Kayla, her main interest is creepypasta, that online community of horror folklorists and urban legend fanatics.

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More specifically, I was drawn to a role-playing game called The World’s Fair, in which participants cast a Candyman-like spell into their devices, then creatively document the supposed supernatural changes their bodies and minds undergo. We first meet Casey as she joins the game, through a webcam session that serves as the film’s extended opening shot. After a false start, she tidyed up her bedroom and dimmed the lights for a better atmosphere, before re-launching a session of acupuncture, strobe light, and repetitive incantations. Right from the jump, the movie brings up the question of where the performance ends and the real Casey begins. It’s a streak that will get a little fuzzier as you walk further into the unknown.

Jane Schoenbrunn, Triple Threat writer, director, and magazine editor We all go to the World Fair, completely drowns us out in Casey’s browsing habits — which, by the disturbing logic of this first, mysterious feature, may be indistinguishable from their own knowledge. Stretching out long stretches of a girl’s webcam advantage, Casey easily relies on the visual horror language of her vlogs, at one point executing a chilling grit about the thrill of night watch. supernatural activity. Meanwhile, the structure suggests almost a tube channel, queuing related videos as the teen switches between her own performance art and those of other players on her feed. If this fictional character had made a movie about her life, it would probably look like a lot We all go to the World Fair.

On screen, online performance art pretends to be plastic.

Is Casey Really Attracted To The Hungry Internet, Dropping Herself By Mail? Or is she just expertly taking turns in a game, pretending to be a slow-moving meltdown? Schoenbrunn keeps questions hanging like storm clouds, with vital help from their fearsome mystery star. Cope experiences the vulnerability of an emerging web celebrity, expertly conveying the comfort of a generation growing up in front of the camera and the uneasiness of someone who might lose touch with reality, disappear under glow-in-the-dark makeup and arguably simulated explosions of despair. Her best scenes turn audiences into passionate detectives, sorting out truth from trick. Take, for example, the moment Casey interrupted her TikTok-ready song and dance routine with the sound of a shocking sudden scream. It’s transparently a mind-breaking pantomime, an act. But Cobb allows us to see the real desperation flowing under Casey’s tradition of himself.

We all go to the World Fair He can be disconcerting, in the creepy psychological darkness of his material, the fare of the kind, creepy he is. It’s hard to watch the movie and not think about the stories of real-life teens falling into YouTube rabbit holes of suicidal depression or mistakenly turning to right-wing extremism. not a friendAnother of the few essential films about living online in the 21st century, the innovative gimmick of laptop vision has used the laptop’s vision to brutalize the way some teens separate their darker sides, via online bullying of anonymity. world fairwhich borrows techniques (but not limitations) from Screenlife and found action movies, comes to an uncomfortable conclusion: for some children, there may be no meaningful distinction between “real” ones and those online.

Anna Cobb goes to fame for webcam lovers.

But We all go to the World Fair Not a cautionary tale for concerned parents. Why sound the alarm about a world that has already happened? The tone is more contradictory, anxiety undermines optimism. It’s in the DIY appreciation of this storytelling subculture and the creative triumphs of kids like Casey, a truly promising artist whether or not she considers herself one. (In an age where filmmakers still struggle to make phone and computer interfaces pleasing to look at, here’s a movie that finds beauty in the harsh digital textures of video streams, and in faces lit by flashing screen lights.) Also the way in which Schoenbrunn, a non-binary, offers a metaphor for dysphoria in their plot myths, running a streak of influence for a basic example of genre-bending internet cinema, the matrix. As the movie emphasizes, not all identity shifts are destructive or harmful.

In the end, Casey establishes an affair with an older player, a deep voice behind a creepy avatar. The audience’s first instinct might be to preemptive alert — especially when it turns out that actor Michael J. Rogers is a dead bell for Jackie Earl Haley. But here too, Schoenbrunn resists the easy answers, right down to a startlingly ambiguous ending. The implications are worrisome, but far from clear. Where another filmmaker might stress the danger of reaching the digital abyss for a lifeline, this one just laments the impossibility of it — the way a computer screen wouldn’t be truly impenetrable, no matter how much empathy poured into it. The movie suggests that the ultimate role-playing is to pretend that you can really know someone online.

We all go to the World Fair Opens in select theaters April 15 and is available to rent or buy on digital platforms April 22. For more reviews and writing by AA Dowd, visit his author page.

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