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Film Watches a Midwest Town With Its Own Camera

A new movie has debuted that may possibly be the first commercial release of a documentary created through hacking.

And hacking it was, pure and simple. Filmmaker Andrew Hammerand intercepted a town surveillance feed—without permission—for an undisclosed Midwestern US burg, capturing the comings and goings of everyday citizens for a new documentary, dubbed the New Town.

Hammerand simply did a Google search to find unsecured control panels for network cameras and soon found the perfect prey: A device mounted high aloft a cell tower in an unidentified town, which he could commandeer to zoom in on, pan towards and follow the unaware populace down below on the streets. The camera could rotate 360 degrees. Bingo.

It all started off in the realm of “interesting exercise.” Pretty soon though, Hammerand found himself getting hooked on the lives of others.

As Wired reported:

“The first time Hammerand tuned in, he spied a mother and daughter walking down a street. Because the camera’s lens could zoom and rotate 360 degrees, he could follow them—an addictive level of control that kept him coming back. The photographer sometimes spent hours taking screenshots of the townspeople, who began to seem like characters in a fictional world of his creation. “It was equivalent to watching a year-long, daily episodic television show without dialogue,” he says.”

Phoenix-based Hammerand won’t identify the town, and admits that there’s a certain grey area when it comes to the propriety in his actions. “As the internet gives us increasing access into the lives of others, the line between unsuspecting and participatory becomes blurred,” he said.

If you want to check it out for yourself, the film is playing at the Open Society Foundation in New York until September.

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