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‘The Fear Engine’ by Andy Ross [Documentary Review]



The Fear Engine is a street-level documentary about the social, psychological and emotional impacts of technology, social media, and advertisements (among other things) and how they shape our emotional well-being as a collective “civilized” society trapped in an age of spin and how that affects our daily lives as well as how we look at ourselves. Interviewees include Academy Award-winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours), Howard Jones (8 million albums sold), Professor Hugh Montgomery (Climate Change specialist), photographers, farmers and other respected experts from a diverse range of professional fields.

The documentary comes from British music producer Andy Ross who has worked with such legendary and esteemed artists as Paul McCartney (yep, of The Beatles) and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, among many others. Ross also provides the soundtrack to the film that dives deep into ambient instrumental soundscapes that complement the stimulating discussions presented, rather than trying to carve out snappy pop tunes.

One thing that makes The Fear Engine standout as a documentary is that it is very specifically geared to present lots of bold ideas and huge questions about life, death, the planet, philosophy and other diverse topics without telling the viewer how or what to think. The wide range of perspectives that are offered throughout the film leaves a lot of room for the viewer to breathe and process their own thoughts on the subjects at hand. The film also asks a lot of deep questions that are bound to create many discussions among the audience that will stretch far beyond the normal watercooler chit-chat and Tweets chalked with buzzword hashtags.

The way the modern media landscape shapes our self-image and self-esteem definitely alters, moulds and influences our perception of our environment and the world at large, which in turn also directly affects how we interact with ourselves and each other. Since we are all currently living through an unprecedented age within our lifetime, the documentary examines the way technology influences our social interactions as well as how it directly impacts our mental health and ideals regarding self-worth.

The documentary couldn’t be more relevant considering the way that the internet has evolved from a luxury into a necessity for life in the 21st Century due to the way most of us access information and get our news within social circles along with the world at large, but is technology really a gateway into another world? Or is it becoming a mirror that has become a pitfall or gregarious hyperbole and narcissistic self-glorification that has distorted our collective sense of reality that has permanently altered our own human behaviour?

This said, the guests interviewed do offer their own take on how to overcome these mental mountains that need to be climbed within one’s own self. These answers are offered more as food for thought rather than hardline directives as the subjects discuss fulfillment, discovery, the importance of redefining your own sense of purpose, coming to grips with your own definition of success and learning how to forge meaningful connections with people rather than disposable posturing relationships.

One theme that pops up a few times is how being an artist is a state of being and a creative approach to all things in life rather than achieving monetary value or a particular finished result in a particular medium. The subjects also discuss the true definition of art is how ideas are connected and in the manner in which they are executed regardless of which task is being completed.

The film also revolves around the theme of defining who you are on your own terms and how incredibly valuable it is to broaden your horizons by experiencing new things, and surrounding yourself with perspectives outside of your own. The only way to truly live is to discover a lot of experiences and perspectives that life has to offer and to find what truly brings you life.

Directors: Andy Ross
Starring: Musician Howard Jones, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, photographer Laura Solomon, professor Hugh Montgomery, philosopher Alastair Rylatt), founder ‘Choir With No Name’ Marie Benton, green builder Steve Epstein
Screening: Amsterdam Lift-Off Film Festival, Paris Lift-Off Film Festival, UK Film Festival – London, International Film Festival of Wales, Sundance Film Festival (U.S.), and Slamdance Film Festival (Los Angeles)
Release Date: TBD
Run Time: 55 minutes

After graduating with a degree in Media Studies and Journalism from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto, ON, Alex has been covering pop culture events since 2009. He has covered major festivals like Osheaga, North by North East, Edgefest, and Heavy T.O and interviewed members of the Foo Fighters and Carlos Santana (who featured the interview in his memoir) and more. Alex has also spoken with filmmakers like writer/director Shane Black (Iron Man 3), writer George Pelecanos (The Wire, The Deuce), feature film directors, actors, stunt coordinators and more. His passion for film lead him to write original screenplays and even made the Second Round of the Austin Film Festival in 2019. He loves movies, music, reading, writing, and festivals of all kinds while he works on his next feature film spec script.