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WarGames

Directed by John Badham.
With Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, John Wood.
US, 1983, DCP, color, 114 min.
DCP source: Park Circus

Before the utopianism and consumerism of Silicon Valley, there were fears of the Military Industrial Complex and the Cold War, memorably documented in WarGames, in which the very openness of the Internet causes near nuclear annihilation. Simulation and reality precipitously meet when a very young Matthew Broderick hacks into a “game” called “Global Thermonuclear War” and decides to play as the Soviet Union—triggering NORAD officials to believe that genuine Soviet missiles are inbound, therefore perpetuating an unstoppable supercomputer program to “win the game” against the Soviets with real missiles. As a creative synthesis of the John Hughes-style 1980s teen film and an international thriller, WarGames moves at a pleasurably propulsive clip. Yet in the age of a president who baits North Korea by Tweet, and coming off a push notification by a worker at Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency who confused a drill with a genuinely impending missile-bound disaster, the mix of the virtual and the all-too-real found in WarGames has yet to lose its sober relevance. 

PRECEDED BY

  • From yu to me

    Directed by Aleksandra Domanović .
    UK/Germany/US, 2013, digital video, color, 34 min.
    Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles.

Myths surrounding the creation of the Internet are now relatively stable: its creation out of the East-vs.-West technological escalation during the Cold War, its glorious openness and universality. While these stories are cemented by canonical early Internet films like WarGames, Yugoslav-born and Berlin-based artist Aleksandra Domanović throws a complicating wrench into the mythmaking machine. Domanović’s short, penetrating and understated documentary combines archival materials with in-depth interviews to chart the local instantiation, and eventual dissolution, of the .yu domain name in a country located between “East” and the “West” (Yugoslavia became the first socialist country to join the Internet) during the tumultuous Yugoslav Wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Domanović’s film demonstrates how the developing Internet was far from universal and inevitable, and closely tied to the precarious state of local politics—a fact that Americans, faced with the potential dissolution of Net Neutrality, would do well to remember.

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