It’s an interesting concept for a documentary: give your subjects the tools to record their daily lives, and see what happens.
That’s the thinking behind Project 2×1, a self-described “Google Glass Documentary” created by four young filmmakers from Brooklyn, New York.
Hannah Roodman, Mendy Seldowitz, Celso White and Ben Millstein set out to use Google’s new technology to give outsiders a glimpse at a complicated neighborhood – Crown Heights – which for years has hosted a complex mix of Caribbean islanders and Orthodox Hasidic Jews, reports the New York Daily News.
The film, which premiered in December, used Google Glass to get a first-person perspective from various community members as they went about their daily lives – getting a haircut, or attending religious services, for example.
The team funded its 30-minute film in large part through Kickstarter donations. On the project website, the directors noted that their work might inspire others to examine their own communities as part of a burgeoning national movement.
“Project 2×1 was launched with both a local and universal mission,” they stated on Kickstarter. “In Crown Heights, we aim to facilitate more inter-community dialogue and grassroots, community development. Our broader mission is to spark a universal movement combating the ‘neighborhood anonymity epidemic’ and encourage more people to tell the stories of their own neighborhoods.”
The directors also hoped to capture the way the neighborhood was evolving.
“Growing up, I was always in my own community,” Seldowtiz told the Daily News. “I was taught that Orthodox Jews don’t really talk to the outside world, and even more so to our Caribbean neighbors… It’s a grassroots movement. The younger generation are more open to being friendly with our neighbors, but it’s happening slowly.”
While initially skeptical, Project 2×1 received high marks overall from FastCo.Exist’s Assistant Editor Jessica Leber, herself a Crown Heights resident. While Leber said that at times, the Google Glass “shaky camera” style was “jarring,” ultimately the technique served its subjects well.
“Each closely-knit community had its story, and its own places, that the other had never experienced,” Leber wrote. “While all of the scenes could have been shot using a traditional camera, it would have been more invasive and harder for the filmmakers to gain access. The ‘voice’ of the actual subjects would have been subtly diminished. Seeing the rapt church audience from the actual viewpoint of the pastor was something new.”