RiP: A Review

Last night I went to a screening of “RiP” at UnionDocs, a kind of film makers’ urban commune in Williamsburg, a neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. This was the first time I’d seen the film and I had mixed feelings going into it.

I’ve seen a lot of documentaries about free culture, many of them featuring the usual suspects, Doctorow, Lessig, GirlTalk, etc. and I was worried this would just be another diatribe. But “RIP: A Remix Manifesto” is a very special piece of work. Folks at ccMixter are familiar with the project and I’ve known the director, Brett Gaylor, for several years. (Disclosure: for some reason Brett mentions me in the credits but I’m pretty sure I’d be psyched about the film even if he hadn’t done that.)

Brett is a fantastic story teller and his choice of Girl Talk as a centerpiece for the movie gives the whole thing a big energy pump-up. It’s no wonder this thing lights up every festival that screens it. The good news is that the documentary is very focused and never strays off message. The bad news is that it is very focused and never strays off message. For example, Lessig is featured prominently but if you’ve ever seen him talk you know that there’s always two parts of his message: one is that the current system is “fucked” and the other is that there is an alternative pool of art being created that ignores all that (e.g. 100,000,000 CC licensed pictures on flickr can’t be insignificant.) Brett ignores all of the second part and cuts all that stuff out of Lessig’s talks. I totally understand why he did that, I agree, artistically, with the decision — it’s a better doc for it. I guess it just means someone has to go out there to make the super-high-energy go-gettem doc about what’s happening in the free culture movement besides civil disobedience.

The film was followed by a talk session hosted by Steve Holmgren of UnionDocs and featured Aram Sinnreich, professor of copyright at NYU, Fred a.k.a. the hip dude at CC and Brett via Skype video.

Aram is a Big Brain guy, the kind you’re happy is working on your side and not for the other guys. You may remember him as the Napster-is-good-for-business-you-idiots guy. While the rest of us are running around fueled by emotion and the injustice of it all, he’s actually crunched the numbers and gives the whole free culture movement the academic cred we suspect is there, but then are too dim to recognize it in the data without his help.

I have no idea why, as of this writing, RiP is not available for download from Brett’s sites. Whatever, here’s a divx torrent from The Pirate Bay (there are several others in case that one isn’t alive when you try it.)

[UPDATE] Here is a pick-your-price download page.

From left to right, Steve, Aram, Brett (on screen) and Fred.