I'd never heard of '90s dot-com entrepreneur Josh Harris, but "We Live in Public" tells the story of his rise and fall, and all the weird things that happened in between.
Harris founded Pseudo.com, the first Internet television network -- there's no doubt he was a visionary, quickly identifying where the web in its infancy was heading. He was also a wounded soul -- "Gilligan's Island" was perhaps his most important childhood influence -- whose genius tended toward the tragic and weird; he pushed the boundaries a bit too far.
His most famous project was the creation of Quiet: We Live in Public, an underground world entirely wired with cameras and microphones with absolutely no privacy for anyone. 100 New Yorkers moved into Quiet to ring in the millenium by living on Internet TV for a month. What happened is probably not suitable for classroom viewing, but it's fascinating to see what people will do regardless of a webcam pointing into their tiny bunkers, and what they'll watch each other do with a dedicated channel for every space. Not surprisingly the police raided and put an end to the experiment shortly after Y2K. More surprising is the wonder and affection some of its inhabitants still feel toward Quiet.
Following Quiet's demise, Harris similarly wired his own apartment so that their fan following could watch his and his new girlfriend's every, and I mean every, move online. Watching their relationship crumble is even more painful when you realize the extent to which they're playing for the cameras and the chat room chatter that serves as the score to their lives.
Harris led a bizarre life, but one that showed exactly how far the Internet would go and portended the often voluntary loss of privacy it has ushered into our lives.
Directed by Ondi TImoner, who documented Harris' life for years, "We Live in Public" is thought-provoking and sometimes unsettling, but never dull. It won the Grand Jury prize for documentary at Sundance in 2009.