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Big Data, Big Brother cover image

Big Data, Big Brother 2021

Not Recommended

Distributed by Film Ideas, 308 North Wolf Rd., Wheeling, IL 60090; 800-475-3456
Produced by Thierry Commissionat
Directed by Caroline Bennarosh
Streaming, 55 mins

General Adult
Biography; Literature

Date Entered: 04/01/2021

Reviewed by Russell A. Hall, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Penn State Erie

Big Data, Big Brother was originally released on French television in 2020. According to the film distributor’s website, the film purports to demonstrate “just how closely today’s reality mirrors two of the most well-known dystopian novels of the 20th century: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984.” This idea seems to have gotten lost in translation. Rather than examining the parallels between those two classic books and the world of today, Big Data, Big Brother presents us with a disjointed dual biopic.

The film begins with some scattered background on Huxley and his book and Orwell and his novel and providing what seems superfluous information on the locales in which the authors wrote these works. Next the film jumps backward in time to where Huxley taught Orwell French when the latter was attending Eton. Important discussion of the social class differences between Orwell, who was on scholarship and of a lower social standing, and the traditional upper-crust Etonian like Huxley. Class structure is important in both novels, and this is shown in the film by a segue to the “baby factories” of Brave New World. Here Big Data, Big Brother spends far too little time and depth in comparing Huxley’s baby factories and a clinic in San Franscisco that is helping parents create genetically altered “designer babies.” And that is the trouble with film. There are instances where the viewer gets the tiniest hint of similarities between the dystopian visions in the novels and what is going on in the world today. Another example comes approximately two-thirds of the way through the film when the film turns to the Orwellian exploitative manipulation of language and facts in today’s “fake news” world. When we do get this discussion, it is once again far too short.

The film also has some technical problems with the sound, which may be a function of this reviewer watching a version released for English language viewers. In nearly all cases where an interviewee is speaking French, the translator’s voice is very close in volume to that of the interviewee. This makes it difficult to understand the translator. The same issue also crops up on occasion where the music in the film overwhelms the voice of the narrator.

In summary, Big Data, Big Brother attempts to provide biographies of Huxley and Orwell, overviews of their most famous novels, and show how the nightmares of those books are reflected in today’s world. Unfortunately, the film gives only a surface treatment to these three goals and viewers will be left unsatisfied on all counts.

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.