I just finished a short, but powerful new Netflix documentary called Nobody Speak about the controversial lawsuit between Terry Bollea (more commonly known by his stage name of Hulk Hogan) and the online publication Gawker.
I immensely enjoyed the film and thought it did a good job of contextualizing this particular case against the broader backdrop of attacks on the free press across our country. It touches on the controversial purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal by Sheldon Adelson and highlights some of our current President's vindictive statements against the press.
I'm a strong believer in a free press and am glad this movie was made. Freedom of the press is most at threat when publications perceived to be "less than" (i.e. tabloids, etc.) are encouraged to be attacked. Of course, the press doesn't get everything right, but a verdict that bankrupts and shuts down a publication is a scary precedent. It's no less scarier that one of Gawker's biggest enemies and person most likely to be the next James Bond villain, Peter Thiel, footed the bill for Bollea's legal fees.
A free press is something that is brought down bit by bit, not in one grand act. This movie encourages vigilance and serves as a healthy reminder about the dangerous times we live in.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the quality of the filmmaking itself. The film's editing and pacing are impeccable and this film serves as another example that we truly are in a "golden age" of documentary filmmaking. I saw the filmmaker, Brian Knappenberger's, most recent work, The Internet's Own Boy, which was about Aaron Swartz, a well-known "hacktivist." I also thought it was a powerful entry in what I am sure will be a fascinating career. I see a lot of parallels with Knappenberger's storytelling and Alex Gibney's. There are parallels in both of Knappenberger's films that I've seen and many of Gibney's about the focal narrative really being a subplot of a larger, and more disturbing trend societally.
Aaron Swartz did do something illegal to get himself embroiled in messy legislation. Gawker did and has published nasty and questionable content. Both parties were prosecuted far beyond what was necessary in order to make examples out of them. Both parties tried to toy with powerful forces (Swartz with copyright law and Gawker with the rich and famous). Their outcomes represent disturbing trends regardless of your personal opinion of both parties' actions.
I'll finish off by saying I enjoyed the message and substance of Nobody Speak, but definitely think it's worth a watch due to the fantastic filmmaking driving the narrative forward. Both are necessary for a great documentary film, and it's wonderful to see so much great documentary content accomplishing both these days.