By now it is clear that social media is not only restricted to the facilitation of “social” interactions, but that it has profoundly creative aspects too, serving as a narrative medium to document life with both a metaphorical and physical story function. I have employed Snapchat to not only interact with people, but to archive my memories. This is, at an elementary level, a way to edit my life into a coherent visual film. But there’s a dark side to these networks— for the most part they give instant gratification, but, when you transform your life into entertainment, you become open to abuse on a very personal level, and women in particular are most threatened.
Trim Lamba’s Cracked Screen stands out for not only its innovative use of Snapchat for storytelling, but for the way it demands a conversation surrounding social filmmaking and its real-time emotional consequences, focused through lenses of self-image, gender, abuse and trauma. The intimacy and interactivity of the medium cuts both ways for Lamba, as audiences don’t sit in the back of a theater quietly, but rather judge you and your story instantaneously and rather personally—with both compliments and ridicule. The film follows a self-broadcasted, first-person tale of a young British woman before, during and after she suffers a vicious attack. You’ll experience empathy for her injuries, the betrayal she feels by her followers, and a creeping guilt at being a voyeuristic spectator in her undoing. Trust me when I say you’ll think twice about screen-shotting Snaps after watching this film.
“I was intrigued by the marketability of atrocity. Terrible things happen to people but we still want to see- we still click on these stories”
As Cracked Screen’s main character, played by new comer Chantelle Levene, literally unravels before our eyes halfway through the film, we witness the transformation of a confident and beautiful woman turn into her very own insecure nightmare—and not without provocation. I found myself physically upset at what happens to Chantelle during her Snap Story and disgusted at myself when I realize that I was strangely fascinated by her disfigurement post-attack.
Because of the familiarity of the film’s presentation—it looks like a long Snapchat Stories stream, there is an automatic intimacy that takes over. Chantelle is instantly equated with a friend or an acquaintance, and thus Lamba is able to direct our perverse fascination in profound directions, provoking interesting questions: would I think less of Chantelle if she wasn’t attractive? Women aren’t allowed to be ugly on social media. Would I take a screenshot like the rest of her snapchat followers? Could I be so cruel as to show it to others, plaguing this poor woman that much more? And why would that be wrong? After all, she did post those images of her face post-attack. Ultimately, Lamba begs us to ask how much everyone—the attacker, the victim, and the followers – all interconnect to become responsible for causing such a downward spiral in an individual. It also reveals the ugly side of how we project ourselves on social media and the rather taboo fact that women are pressured to look ‘attractive’ on their accounts or else suffer the consequences of being a social pariah.
Lamba elaborates: “I was intrigued by the marketability of atrocity. Terrible things happen to people but we still want to see- we still click on these stories. As a digital community, we often fetishise and collectively participate in this notion of disgrace. Towards the end of the film, ‘you’ the viewer are referenced- we wanted you to feel complicit.”As social videography becomes more ingrained in our lives, we imagine there will be many more experimental films like this and we couldn’t be more excited to see them. Let us know in the comments below what you thought of Lamba’s film and how it made you feel!