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Sundance: TikTok, Boom.

“On TikTok, anything can happen.”

Directed by Shalini Kantayya, TikTok, Boom. explores the history of one of the great disruptors of the social media landscape and how it threatens privacy and affects the young people who use it. TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform and poses a threat to giants like Facebook. Its innovation not only transformed vertical video but also the way we communicate with each other. Everyday people have amassed huge followings with their viral videos.  And its algorithm is unlike anything we’ve seen before tailoring content specifically to the users behaviors with scary accuracy. Simply put, TikTok is changing the way we view celebrity, information, and entertainment.

TikTok, Boom. focuses specifically on Gen Z as a generation of “digital natives” (people who don’t know a world without the internet) and ignores the vast array of other people who use the app. There are users/creators in their 30s, 40s, 50s and older who are thriving on the app and building a platform of hundreds of thousands if not millions of followers. There are several docs out there on social media as both a tool and a threat to young people and this is just another in the bunch.

The doc offers critical analysis on TikTok as a company, it’s Chinese origins, and its famous algorithm but ignores the many nuances of the app.  TikTok, Boom. is underwhelming.  However, it may be a good primer for those TikTok naysayers who want justification for not using the app.

TikTok, Boom. premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.


“You make things hard for yourself, don’t you?”

Izzy Alden (Isabelle Barbier) needs to get laid. She promised herself that she’d lose her virginity by the end of her freshman year in college. And with finals just around the corner, she’s running out of time. The problem with Izzy is that she’s hopelessly awkward. She doesn’t have the same natural confidence and social intelligence that her two best friends Fiona (Sadie Scott) and Anuka (Deeksha Ketkar) do. Fiona works at the local bowling alley and is lusting after the popular lesbian on campus. Anuka is Izzy’s closest ally but is dealing with her own drama of her complicated feelings for her long-distance boyfriend Juju (Dylan Rogers) and the hot blonde guy she spotted in the cafeteria. Izzy is determined to get an invite to a Crush party, where only people who are submitted as a crush can attend. But Izzy keeps sabotaging herself by putting her friendships at risk and ignoring the one guy, Oliver (Raph Fineberg), who is genuinely interested in her.

CRSHD is a quirky and authentic coming-of-age story that speaks directly to social media savvy youth. Director Emily Cohn wrote the script at age 21, produced it at 22 and wrapped up post-production by 24. She incorporates social media, texting and dating app technology into her film by having the characters act out the communications on screen. Having a young cast and crew working on the film makes the end result more relevant to its intended audience. Cohn and her team have assembled a fine cast of players. Barbier, Ketkar and Scott have natural chemistry with each other. Viewers will feel like they’re watching three friends rather than watching three actors playing friends.

“As a filmmaker, I’ve been interested in finding ways to make a computer or tablet or phone act not only as a prop, but also as a scene partner, since these devices often carry the weight of human emotion but lack the cinematic nuance to convey it.”

Director Emily Cohn

The cast is diverse with different races, ethnicities and sexual orientations represented. There has been a lot of discussion about diversity in film and TV as being forced to meet certain criteria. I appreciate films like CRSHD that demonstrate that this is a natural way of things. It also deconstructs beauty standards and highlights how beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder and should not to be mandated by some artificial cultural norms.

CRSHD is available via virtual cinemas May 8th. Visit the official website for more information.

Social Animals

“When image is everything, nothing is off limits.”

Technology has drastically changed our culture. The Instagram generation is creating a social dynamic unlike anything that we’ve ever seen. These youths are living their lives in the public arena well beyond the scope of their immediate IRL (in real life) social circle. Their online presence is highly strategic. Teens will go to great length for the attention that comes with likes, comments, follows and a reputation they can sell. It’s the new modern version of the pursuit of happiness. These teens eventually become addicted to the thrill and the reward that Instagram has to offer by portraying a contrived version of themselves. What repercussions will these teens face for sharing their lives online?

“Instagram opened the horizon for pettiness of my generation.”

Directed by Jonathan Ignatius Green, Social Animals is a new documentary that explores the world of Instagram teens by looking at three different case studies. First is @kalynslevin, an aspiring model with a rapidly growing following. She’s blonde, beautiful and incredibly rich; all the criteria you need to become Instagram famous. In her interviews she states that she’s just a regular person and wants her followers to see her as such. However, her carefully curated Instagram is built with the help of professional photographers and stylists and is more aspirational than anything based in reality. Second is @humzadeas, a New York City based teen who dreams of becoming a professional photographer. Instagram for him is a creative outlet where he can share his creative vision with the world. He becomes a daredevil, ascending great heights to capture incredible images of the cityscape and urban life. His adventurous spirit gets him in trouble.


The most fascinating of the three is @emms_crockett, a Mid-West teen studying at a small Christian school. She feels peer pressure to use Instagram and when her ex-boyfriend and high school friends use it to bully her, the experience sends her on an emotional rollercoaster. We see the horrifying consequences which lead to a suicide attempt. Through her we see how social media platforms like Instagram can negatively affect a person’s mental health.

One thing Emma points out in one of her interviews is how she gave the audience too much power. Perhaps it’s something that’s overlooked but I would love to see a documentary, perhaps a follow-up one to this, that explores the nuances of interaction and how it affects both sides. In Social Animals, several teens, beyond the three profile, go into detail about the methods they use to rig the system for the most return on their efforts.

As an adult who was a teenager in the 1990s, I’m incredibly grateful that I didn’t have smart phones or social media. Many people of my generation and others will agree. I dealt with bullying, stalking, sexual harassment and more types of emotional and mental abuse but I’m so grateful it didn’t play out online where classmates, friends, family and members of the public could see it. 

Social Animals is a relevant documentary that relies on the voices of the Instagram generation to shine a spotlight on this new social dynamic. It lacks some focus and could benefit from some more in-depth study. We may not fully understand yet how to analyze the social of social media. This is a start.

Social Animals is available from Subconscious Films is available on iTunes and VOD with a release date on Netflix scheduled for later this year.

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