SXSW Review/Q&A: New World Order
Alex Jones, the “shock-jock” of conspiracy theorists.
Filmmakers Luke Myer and Andrew Neel make it real hard to just laugh away the crazy conspiracy theorists in their new feature documentary, New World Order<. In fact, what they do instead, is humanize their efforts. What makes the documentary work is that rather than focusing on the theories, Myer and Neel focus on the people.
However, the concept of “new world order” is nothing new and actually has been steadily growing since the early 1900′s.The term caught on after World War I and then particularly sharpened its definition on the teeth of the Cold War. The idea of one global governance has steadily grown admirers and dissenters. The conspiracy theorists claim the concept is stemming from a secret global organization of elite players that plan an eventual totalitarian government. Social theorists blame new technologies for spreading the fervor and paranoia but ongoing wars, economic crises, and the fight for oil clearly also fans the fires.
But you don’t really need to know much about all of that before diving into the doc. In fact, Neel and Myer are very careful at laying out the players and letting their actions sort of explain themselves.
In comes Alex Jones, an Austin disc jockey who has directed several of his own films about the new world order conspiracy and Luke Rudowski an inspired fan that has picked up the torch, along with several other players – the group spreads the message about the annual Bilderberg conference held annually with key elite members of the international society.
The filmmakers follow along with the protestors as they attempt to expose the conspiracy. Myer and Neel interweave the story of the main players in their own lives (Jones in Austin, Luke in New York) until we finally connect with them all at the protest at the Bilderberg Conference.
What I expected was a documentary that meant well but still towed the party line of ‘conspiracy theorists are crazy, ignore their message’ that much of media gives us. Instead, I found a refreshing examination at how one’s beliefs can lead them to passionate public displays in hopes of educating others on what they believe.
Are they any more crazy than the guys who show up at your door with a Bible to tell you how they found Jesus? What about the English teacher that would yarn long tales of their love for Keats? Or the film freak who will shout from the rooftops when they find a movie they love?
Yes, the film is about conspiracy theorists. Yes, the filmmakers follow them on their path of peaceful protest, but it brings up so much more about what we define ourselves as – is it our beliefs? Our actions?
Do we always follow our gut quite as strongly as we should?
The people in this documentary do. And if we can’t take away anything else from what they are telling us, we can believe in that.
OFF: You co-directed Darkon and now New World Order and have worked together in various forms on a couple of other films. How did this relationship develop?
Luke: The foundations for our working relationship we set while we were making Darkon. We spent an incredible amount of time drive up and down I-95, to and from Baltimore. Nearly all of these drives were filled with long, philosophical conversations not only about the film we were making, but also about the world at large. We found the many places where we share common ground, and had charged debates over the issue we didn’t see eye to eye on. The relationship we started then, based on the discourse of ideas, has carried through all the films we’ve made together since.
Luke: The most interesting (and you can argue most important as well) things in this world are what happens around the edges. The explorers, rebels and outcasts. The divergence from the status quo. It’s not only interesting for me to see what people discover when they function on the fringe of society – it’s also that when we see what sets the fringe apart from the center, we are able to see the center with refreshed vision.
Andrew: Most people think they understand the world. They think they control their environment. They think everything makes sense. They think they know what is right and wrong. Religion, Science, Politics etc…a good portion of it is total nonsense…fictions our fear-crazed minds create to make ourselves feel better about the fact that we are hurling forward in time and space…out of control…and blind as a bat. People outside the mainstream tend to get us to question these values we hold so dear. I like being around people with a different take on the world. I’m not saying they are always right, but they lead to further examination of our experience….which is all we got in my opinion.
Luke: I have always been interested in people who refuse to accept the standard belief systems, who do what they want or what they feel they have to regardless of what other people think.
Andrew: I thought conspiracy theorists were interesting because they see the world in a very different way….a very scary way (as Alex Jones notes in the film). I wanted to know what it was like to be one of them.
Luke: We didn’t want to make a film that told the audience what to believe. By not passing judgment on the people or the theories in the film, it is left up to the audience to find their own relationship with what they see when they watch the film. We wanted to make a film that provoked thought rather than simply instructed reactions.
Andrew: It was intentional. It was a decision that took form in our first discussions about the film. I am not interested in taking sides as far as filmmaking is concerned. I think it’s the death knell for most films that could be interesting. Agenda based filmmaking is aesthetically nightmarish. Sometimes it can serve an important social purpose but just as often it can just function as propaganda.
Luke: There’s a lot of great stuff with each of the people in the film that didn’t make it into the final cut. The interviews yielded a lot of interesting material about how the world works, how people work and that value of fighting for what you believe in. Unfortunately, we couldn’t fit it all in the film.
Andrew: Lots of interesting stuff. All the characters are really philosophical about the world and it was great to hear what they had to say. So much of it I agreed with…
Andrew: Because ‘conspiracy theorists’ are so often marginalized some of our subjects were worried that we might make a derogatory piece about them. So we had to gain their trust, but I guess that’s always the tough part of most filmmaking (even fiction filmmaking in some ways). You have to get people to trust you.
Luke: I’m working on a documentary about how we relate to History and the ways we search for heroes and “truth” in the stories of the past. SeeThink Films is also developing several series for tv.
Andrew: I am making the move into fiction. I have several scripts completed that I want to make. I am making a documentary film about a form of mental illness. I have an ongoing project I started on modern religions. We also have a number of TV Doc series we are pitching around.
OFF: Just a note – I finally saw Darkon on IFC recently and I loved it!
Andrew: Hail Darkon! ‘All the worlds a stage, And all the men and women merely players.’
New World Order has its SXSW debut tonight at 7 p.m. at the Alamo Ritz, or catch it on Mar. 17 at 11:30 a.m. in the Conference Center.