Friday, January 28, 2022

TikTok, Boom - 2022 Sundance Movie Review

The Documentary: TikTok, Boom

The Director: Shalini Kantayya

The Story: With TikTok crowned the world's most downloaded app, these are the personal stories of a cultural phenomenon, told through an ensemble cast of Gen-Z natives, journalists and experts alike.

The Review:
If you're not a TikTok user, creator, viewer, or contributor then you might be a bit behind when it comes to the current pop culture trends especially when it comes to social media. I will admit, I have not fully immersed myself into this world although I do have an account and I do have a few posts although I have to say I still prefer other social media options like Discord, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Not against TikTok, just haven't taken the time to fully invest into it.

That being said, this documentary is a crash course in the platform that became a phenomenon around the world by recreating the social media experience and offering influencers a highly streamlined and targeted way to reach not only their fan base but just about anyone who might be exposed to their content. Director Shalini Kantayya takes a fascinating look at this world by introducing the audience to a roster of influencers and expert users who have achieved fame, fortune, and even infamy depending on where you stand on certain issues and causes.

Once we get to know people like Feroza Aziz who suddenly became a globally platformed activist and Spencer X who brought beat boxing, originally introduced to pop culture by the likes of Biz Markie and Doug E Fresh back in the 80's, to a whole new audience, Kantayya then shows the global impact the platform has had, some of it good and some of it not so good. While I was watching the documentary, I started writing down some keywords that came up like like community, algorithms, free speech, censorship, and politics. The way the director tells the story is in much the same way we experience the rabbit hole effect during our own internet searches and she also manages to maintain a sense of objective curiosity like, here is the information with no obvious biases or leaning of any certain way.

One of the most interesting aspects of learning about the influencers is how comfortable they are with the knowledge that privacy is more a legend of the past and something totally accepted versus older generations who see it as a major issue and sticking point when it comes to how they interact with the internet. We get to see how they navigate TikTok to their advantage having already been raised within a lifetime that always had some sort of online presence. There is a fluency that they have that allows them to stay ahead of the curve if not right on the cusp of it even as the powers that be, both government and corporate (although aren't those one and the same?) try to do everything they can to maintain control through data mining.

As with Kantayya's previous documentary, Coded Bias, I was most impressed with how much information she packs into the film while making all of it relatable and easily digestible which I think comes from her own sense of curiosity and willingness to learn. There is a really good mixture of talking heads, statistical breakdowns, and media footage to where it never gets bogged down with too much talking or an excessive amount of stats and data. Whatever the future may hold for TikTok, I get the impression that it's not going anywhere and users will continue to evolve what it is used for.

The Verdict:
TikTok Boom exposes the good, the bad, and the filtered of the world's fastest growing social media platform. Director Shalini Kantayya navigates a virtual landscape filled with equal amounts of controversy and opportunity with a curious eye that makes the documentary a joy to watch.

To keep track of all my Sundance reviews, interviews, and other festival coverage please go to: TwoOhSix at Sundance 2022.

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