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First Look At ‘The Society Of The Spectacle,’ CPH:DOX World Premiere That Unpacks & Updates A 1967 Manifesto On Capitalist Culture

Selfie time in the maternity ward in 'The Society of the Spectacle'

In 1967 French thinker Guy Debord published an influential philosophical treatise, La Société du Spectacle (The Society of the Spectacle), which argued that we had become a society of images, in which representation had replaced authentic experience and interaction. He argued that this development fetishized consumption, serving the purposes of capitalism.

In the 55+ years since the book’s publication, media saturation has increased exponentially, reaching a level of “self-commodification” with social media and selfie culture. The time is ripe, then, to reexamine Debord’s work for our contemporary age, which is exactly what directors Roxy Farhat and Göran Hugo Olsson do in their documentary The Society of the Spectacle, making its world premiere at the prestigious CPH:DOX festival in Copenhagen. We have your first glimpse at the film in the tease above.

“We live in a continuous sensory bombardment of distractions that keep us in the role of passive consumers – a condition that has not exactly improved since the revolutionary ’60s,” CPH:DOX programmers write in a description of the film. “What to do? And how do you film a notoriously complicated theory that attacks the very image itself? Artist Roxy Farhat and filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson (Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975) bring Guy Debord’s ideas into the 21st century.”

The festival adds, “In 27 episodes, Farhat unfolds his theses through conversations with situationism expert Mikkel Bolt, Andreas Malm (How to Blow Up a Pipeline), critic Valerie Kyeyune Backström and professor of film Jyoti Mistryothers, among others. Guy Debord’s own (anti)films are given a modern counterpoint by satirical interventions in a visual work that is not afraid to criticize neither itself nor the cult around Debord and situationism.”

The Society of the Spectacle premieres on Thursday (March 23), with an additional screening set for Saturday (March 26). The documentary is in competition for the New:Vision Award.

“Guy Debord’s text offers us a way of understanding the pacifying forces of capital, consumption and images,” Farhat and Olsson note. “The spectacle is the bad dream of a modern society in chains and ultimately expresses nothing more than its wish for sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of that sleep. We often ask ourselves, what can I do as an individual? The answer came to us in this film: Stop being an individual. Join a collective, and work from there. It’s a neoliberal myth that change comes through our individual consumer choices, recycling our garbage and voting. We are fooled to believe that being disappointed and complaining about our elected politicians is a part of ‘the dialogue,’ when in reality the participatory element of democracy is drowned by the Spectacle. So, organize!”

The Society of the Spectacle is produced by Tobias Janson and Melissa Lindgren for Swedish production company Story AB in co-production with Film i Väst and SVT and with support by The Swedish Film Institute.

Watch the teaser above.

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