June 13, 2005
Last week I finished watching Jason Scott’s BBS: The Documentary (which I mentioned earlier on here) and also saw Gamer Br [torrent], [main site] a freely available 45-minute documentary about video gaming in Brazil that’s available via Legaltorrents.
They’re both well worth watching if you like the kind of stuff we like here on Grand Text Auto. It was interesting to see, though, how the two films look very different approaches to talking with people about their computing experiences, the digital communities that they’ve been part of, and the things that make them passionate about computing.
BBS: The Documentary had the advantage of being longer – eight episodes on three DVDs – and so could afford to focus on several different topics and perspectives in depth. (The DVD set also has a lot of interesting outtakes that wouldn’t fit anywhere but are worth viewing – and it even has some easter eggs.) I felt like watching Gamer Br game me a better sense of Brazil’s engagement with computing than I otherwise would have, and it supported my already positive opinion of the country as being a progressive force in creative computing. But I suppose I didn’t learn much about video games from watching it. I did learn a huge among about BBSs from watching BBS – from the persistence of six BBSs to this day in Denton, Texas to the complex and competitive structure of the ANSI art scene to the surprisingly gut-wrenching story of the battle between the .ARC and .ZIP formats for compression.
Gamer Br was heavy on the post-production, often duplicating the image of the speaker’s face on several parts of the screen and adding other effects. Some of these effects worked well; on the other hand the video (which is mostly in Brazilian Portuguese) was subtitled with two lines of text per screen, making it difficult to read and follow, and the sound wasn’t in sync. In contrast, BBS: The Documentary didn’t seem superficially slick, but it was well-shot and well-edited, and the people who spoke really seemed to give voice to their experiences online. In a case where the two documentaries would be about equally topical, I’d be more inclined to show a class some of BBS.
BBS and Gamer Br both supply some interesting scenes about scenes, and they’ll work well to keep you away from the summer blockbusters.
Update (July 7): In my original post, I confused the existence of five hours of footage (about five and a half, actually) with their being five episodes. There are actually eight episodes, and, incidentally, I had seen all of them – along with some of the supplementary material – when I posted this. I’m keeping the title and slug as it originally was to avoid breaking links.