• 01.21.16

This 14-Minute Film About A Boy With A Camera For A Face Puts Modern Reality In Focus

“The Boy with a Camera for a Face” is a timely parable about how we document our entire lives as much, if not more, than we live them.

This 14-Minute Film About A Boy With A Camera For A Face Puts Modern Reality In Focus

The first thing our dewey eyes see upon being born is the glowing rectangle of light outside the womb. What could be better preparation for the life to come, a life that will likely be spent in large part staring at glowing rectangles? As a brilliant new short film points out, however, the second thing in the world many of us see is a camera.


“The Boy with a Camera for a Face” is a strange, timely, multi award-winning short film that has just been released on Vimeo for all to see. It is very much worth your time, all 14 minutes of it. Filmmaker Spencer Brown‘s parable is about our obsessive interest in other people’s lives, our insatiable urge to document every moment that happens to us, and the distorting effects of doing so. And it’s a lot less dour than Arcade Fire’s last album, which touched on similar themes.

Narrated nursery rhyme-style, the film opens with the (no doubt extremely painful) birth of our aperture-eyed hero and goes right into his early life. There are clever, surreal touches at every turn, such as the parents having to change the boy’s video tape every night, rather than a diaper. (What does that say about what’s being recorded?) The sight of a proud papa hugging his camera should resonate with anyone who feels oddly amputated upon leaving the house without a phone. It’s already a Ray Kurzweilian nightmare/fantasy before the kid even hits puberty.

When the boy does come of age, naturally there are hang-ups. The sexual metaphors here are both complex (the destruction of intimacy via documentation) and silly (a camera lens extending like an erection), but they will make you think. So will the rest of it. “The Boy with a Camera for a Face” raises so many interesting questions about how people behave when they’re being recorded, and whether we’re all living performative lives. Inevitably, there’s an offer of a reality TV show, in case you worried the Kardashian contingent wouldn’t be represented here.

Years ago, the futurist Gordon Bell made a project of recording every single moment of his life, in order to create an external, indexed memory for himself. This dazzling film presents many of the same revelations Bell’s project might uncover in a comparably tidy 14 minutes.

[via Laughing Squid]

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.