December 27, 2068
Thank you for your remark. I would bet you already know all of this, but I’ll do my best to remember how it all happened since I never missed a chance to clap my jaws.
Do I remember the start of the film revolution?
It was before The Great Pandemic, probably in early 2020. I saw a YouTube video of comedian Bill Hader. He was doing celebrity prints, but an AI developer had used machine learning to map the faces of real actors to Bill’s face. At the time, it was pure magic.
In a few years, this stuff was everywhere. Movie studios were starting to come out of zombie cinema – dead stars rekindled by AI. Amazon got James Dean. Netflix had Marilyn Monroe. Google got Brando. And these companies pose as bandits. They could pay the pocket change of motion capture actors versus celebrities. By the 2030s, they were producing entire movies in CGI, running them through AI realism passes, and slapping the faces of social media influencers on flawless digital bodies. 8K. HDR. 60 frames per second. SAG-AFTRA made fuss for a few years, but there was really nothing they could do when there was no demand for talent. Of course, there was sometimes an independent film made the old fashioned way, but they rarely made it into mainstream audiences, there just weren’t enough funds available for risky projects.
The AI was also a victory for good old Zuckerburg. It merged Facebook’s user data library with machine learning video tools. It could create real-time video ads targeted to users’ emotional state, fantasies and specific physiological needs.
But then it happened. July 4, 2043. Everything has changed. Senator Logan Paul has announced his intention to run as the Republican presidential candidate in the next election. His speech was broadcast live on YouTube and TrumpTV. It was then that a Reddit user discovered that the two live streams were different. Logan Paul was giving two speeches simultaneously. It was obvious that one or both of them was a real-time fake. The live television had been hacked. China was a suspect at the time, but after a four-month investigation it turned out to be the work of cyber-satirist Axitron.
If the public still had confidence in the value of the image as a source of truth, this event shattered it. And he would have remained broken without Raheem.
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Raheem Rene ‘Jackson, who at the time was known as The Analog Journalist, had cycled around this marginal idea (that’s how most people saw it back then). He claimed that the only trustworthy image was the one that was part of our physical reality, not the one that lived on a server. He argued that the photographic negative, the light-sensitive tape born out of silver and plastic, was the only trustworthy source of images for political and cultural life. The negative was not numbers and code, but atoms and molecules. It couldn’t be copied without a change in its molecular structure. And ironically, Raheem had found a way to verify the authenticity of the photographic negatives with an AI-assisted electron microscope scanner connected to the blockchain. You probably know it now as MAT or Molecular Array Tokens.
Raheem’s work and theory were soon put to the test. The Chicago Police Department had been accused of using excessive force during the 2045 protests. The police department’s attorney had pushed the (ubiquitous) deep false defense, claiming that relevant video evidence from the iPhone had been tampered with with AI. But this time things were different. Raheem had participated in the protests. He had filmed parts of it with a 1954 Bolex 8mm cinema camera. The prosecutor was able to pass Raheem’s original negatives through a projector in the courtroom, verify them with MAT technology, and corroborate that the footage from the iPhone were in fact accurate.
After the Chicago PD ruling was released, Raheem toured late-night shows and podcasts. He caught the public’s attention with a call to reclaim the analog arts as a refuge from political and psychological totalitarianism.
It would be unfair to say that a majority of the public cared even about his impractical ideas, but his call did not fall on deaf ears. It has sown the seeds for a new analog resurgence among the school and college age population.
In 2057, the real unexpected happened. A film produced entirely in analog won the Oscar for best film. Former TikTok star Anastasia Guerrera shot it on expired Kodak stock and cut it by hand in the basement of her Abuela. After the Oscars, his film toured the country, screened in ephemeral cinemas in libraries, concert halls, breweries and episcopal churches. The experience shocked the public. There was something real and yet indescribable about it – the wrinkled skin, crooked teeth, sagging breasts, blurry planes, wavering grain, it was all so imperfect, yet so powerful. People came out of libraries with beaming faces, as if they had seen God.
That was over a decade ago. That’s when I saw Kodak and Fuji rolls popping up in the aisles of grocery stores – something I haven’t seen since I was your age. And that’s when MAT technology brought cinema back to journalism as we see it today.
But do you know what convinced me that the cinema had really come back for good? You did it. I remember the time you came over last year with your friends from high school. You brought us all together in the living room, you made your parents turn off their phones. And you have installed your slide projector. You showed us the slides from that trip you took to the Olympic Peninsula – your young smiling, colorful, burnt faces on the wall in my living room. It was too much for me Josiah. You didn’t know it, but I was having a hard time keeping my face dry. It reminded me of when I was little, before the Internet, before Instagram and PicNic. We were watching my grandfather’s slideshow, all together with my cousins and aunts and uncles. And everyone was laughing. I never thought I would relive this experience. I thought it was gone forever. But you Josiah brought him back to life.
Long live the cinematographic revolution, may the truth prevail in the country, that our photographs bring people together instead of separating them.
With lots of love,
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