KARACHI, March 27: What does Twitter mean to tweeters and tweetaholics? Is it a medium that can be trusted? Or is it to be kept at an arm’s length? These and other interrelated questions were raised by writer and film-maker Tan Siok Siok in the aptly titled Twittamentary, which was screened at T2F on Wednesday evening.
Delving into Twitterville, Ms Siok undertakes a road trip to Chicago, New York and Las Vegas meeting Twitter people who are using the social medium in innovative ways.
The intimate, touching and entertaining 63-minute documentary about Twitter, Twittamentary, meets up Janis Krums who in 2009 tweeted the picture of a US airways plane passengers huddled on its wing just before it plunged into the Hudson River and thus redefined journalistic reporting. He became a twilebrity, due to this ‘accidental citizen journalism’ as his tweet was picked up by news agencies and links created to his picture. It also follows a tweet improvisational comedy group that creates an improv scene through tweets from audience members, happening in real time.
But all is not bliss in Twittersphere with a dark side to it as well, says Ms Siok who is also the narrator of the slickly produced Twittamentary. One disturbing case study is about the video of Neda Agha-Soltani dying on a street in Tehran at the height of 2009 Iranian election protests. Someone copied the picture of the living Neda Soltani from her Facebook profile and pasted on the dying one and within a couple of hours the superimposed photo was picked up by blogs, major international print and online media and other social media forums. The living Neda Soltani was traced by the Iranian government and she eventually escaped to Germany where she sought political asylum.
The documentary also illustrates Twitter as a medium for better customer service. A customer unhappy with the delay in her order of pizza delivery vented by tweeting her complaint and to her pleasant surprise received a video apology by the pizza franchise owner that was then embedded in 80 blogs. There was an unlikely trade-off for the owner — an interview by CNN.
One of the most touching stories in Twittamentary was of Anne Marie Walsh, her twitter handle @padschicago, a homeless woman, living in various shelter houses for the past four years and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She started to use twitter, in Chicago libraries, to vent her frustrations. She developed friendships with her followers, some of whom were kind enough to send her gifts of warm clothes, pillow cases and blankets. She was grateful for these contributions calling them ‘Christmas gifts’ and feeling less lonely.
Ms Siok’s team then takes her to 140 characters conference in Chicago, ‘the Davos of Twitter’, where Ms Walsh talks about her experience of homelessness. Her honesty is refreshing and she comes across as down-to-earth woman not having high hopes from Twitter but does acknowledge that being on Twitter has changed her outlook on everything.
Twittamentary ends optimistically when towards the end we are informed that Ms Walsh has found housing as a result of a Twitter contact.
Besides the inspirational stories, sharp editing, handheld camerawork and lively background music are elements that make this documentary a riveting watch.