Home Page
Rating -

Documentary (US); 1999; Not Rated; 102 Minutes

A documentary featuring Justin Hall, Harold Rheingold, Jaime Levy, Julie Petersen, Carl Steadman, Marjorie Silver, Denise Tenorio and Doug Block portraying themselves

Produced by Doug Block, Jane Weiner and Esther Robinson; Directed and screenwritten by Doug Block

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"You're either part of the steamroller or you're part of the road."

-Wired Magazine, opening comments of "Home Page"

Like the subjects of Doug Block's documentary "Home Page," I am one of those people relentlessly obsessed with that phenomenon called the World Wide Web. This online community has so overwhelmed the technological scene that it has spawned a dominant virtual society, filled with communities to reside in, places to explore, and people to meet, among other things. Needless to say, those who allow themselves to be associated with this marvel are hopelessly addicted--eventually, people will entertain the thoughts of having their own residence in this limitless dimension.

With a little guidance, they might actually pursue those aspirations. This is what people refer to "having a home page"--a location on the Internet devoted to the personal life of its creator, or of the people who live around them. People who surf the 'net are freely and abundantly given details of the most intimate secrets: sexual fantasies, encounters, personal habits, etc. The odd question that sticks in the mind to those who have no relationship with the online industry is, "why would people do such private things?" Of course, if you're one of those whose fascination with the Web extends for hours, you should already know the answer.

In ways, that's what "Home Page" is about: a filmmaker who sets out to film a diary on his daughter is sidetracked by the newest technological sensation, and sets out to pursue some answers. What is the web? Why are people participating in its growth? How big is it? Why are people fearless to share revealing secrets with total strangers? These answers aren't too hard, but for a person such as Doug Block, who knows nothing about the online community, the journey for those answers is an intriguing one.

Watching the movie is eccentric and fresh all at the same time. On the positive side, it represents a comprehensive journey; one in which a clueless individual sets his mind to new ideas, and grasps their complexities with the help of experienced web authors. But the material is based on events from 1996, and since then, the 'net has evolved into something that no one could have comprehended three years before. Is the movie like a lesson in history, or is it trying to push facts on us that we probably already know? The experience deals with routine circumstances, and they might have worked better in a documentary three years ago when the Internet was still in early development.

The blame certainly doesn't rest on the individuals who are revealed on camera. Block, who curiosity about the Internet almost leaves him stunned, invites us in on a compelling tour of the lives of those whom he has visited online. The prospect of posting detailed private information on human lives through the Internet is bizarre enough--meeting the people who actually participate in these events feels uncomfortable. There comes a point when we feel like we are invading private space, as the people who show us what goes into the making of a home page have other extreme details that they do not share with the online community.

One such person is a warped, punk rocker-like computer expert named Justin Hall. With hair that stands almost two feet tall, and a physique that may cause many women to question his enormous sexual popularity, this is a man of repugnant behavior and immaturity--he relishes in the notion that people who visit his little space online will know all the details of his private sex life, currently going on at the center of a college campus. But that's not all--he even goes so far as to post nude photos of himself on the Internet (and the movie gives us proof with a grainy but clear image of his revealed anatomy). These certain piggish actions only justify a blatant characteristic found in most Web denizens; if people can, or try to, get away with things, they usually feel more comfortable doing them over a modem than getting up close and personal.

"Home Page" is a strong, stirring work of genius, and yet it isn't a great movie. There are certain subjects, twists, and individuals in the picture who endure typical Internet and social misadventures. While the people are interesting and well-characterized by the director, they seldom earn the sympathy from the audience they deserve. This is because of the situations they become involved in are common, lack certain details, and are not very unique. Sure, the film is based on fact, but that is no excuse when dealing with documentaries. Unless some of the material has the means to completely interest a viewer, it does not always work.

Of course, I could list all the other faults with the movie, such as the fact that it is too long to suit the documentation, but they are irrelevant to the core audience. Undoubtedly, generated interest will come from those who, too, are looking for an answer to their curiosity about the Web, such as this avid filmmaker. Therefore, "Home Page" should be accepted on that level; those who are already familiar with this wonderful community might very well dismiss the film because of its ordinary examination on things we already have tremendous knowledge in.

1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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