and Conditions May Apply screens at the
Gene Siskel Center on Saturday July 20th and Tuesday July 23rd.
Director Cullen Hoback will be present for an audience discussion at the
With the PRISM debacle still prevalent in today’s media cycle, Cullen Hoback’s Terms and Conditions May Apply has an alarming quality that connects its audience with the present. Though with production of the film concluding before the controversy, Hoback is left to steadily deploy other contemporary examples of the deprivatization of today’s increasingly globalized state. Citing everything from the privacy policies of Facebook and Google to the exploits of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, Hoback’s methodology may lack finesse, but Terms’ hasty propulsion lends itself to a genuinely engrossing effort.
Focusing on the microcosm of clicking “Accept” when bypassing the terms and conditions screen, Hoback looks at how our favorite websites and services (from Google to iTunes) extract information on consumers’ internet viewing habits. Through our willful agreement of these companies’ terms, Hoback expands by guiding the audience through the steady growth of the security and information industries. Citing 9/11 and the Patriot Act as the critical steps in which citizen data collection became increasingly easy (and legal), Hoback’s argument addresses how our cyber footprint is ever the more permanent. Regularly utilizing film and movie clips, Hoback emphasizes how our invasion of privacy has been accounted for within popular media ad nauseum. It’s our subsequent ambivalence that Hoback takes to task.
With a runtime at a little under 90 minutes, Terms’ breezy treatment of its material doesn’t leave much room for thought. It’s Hoback’s framework, where he creates a line-by-line list of how privacy policies strip away our rights, which does the film a disservice. Each line item serves as a separate conceptual entity, with the subsequent bridge between lacking the necessary cohesion to allow the picture to flow properly. Cullen’s passions takes him from international affairs to small-town identity profiling .But with a vignette structure, Terms always feels like it’s building toward something revelatory, only to squander its momentum. Cullen makes an antagonist out of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but with such unfocused material, his coup d’état confrontation registers as an overextended Michael Moore knockoff. It’s not to say the picture does not hold its own through individual sequences – Hoback’s variety of subjects all contribute to a pastiche of paranoia and fear. Even in its clumsy design, Terms does evoke an irrevocable sense of dread. It’s not a film that necessarily changes one’s worldview – but each time you log onto Facebook, the film will likely linger in your head.