Sandra Trostel, Germany
For more than thirty years, the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), Europe’s largest association of hackers, has been providing information about a myriad of technical and societal issues from data privacy to freedom of information. In Sandra Trostel’s latest documentary, she introduces audiences to this eclectic group of people, interviewing some of the founders and behind-the-scenes staff, as well as showcasing the annual conference the Chaos Communication Congress and other smaller events. Using the interesting idea of leading the audience along as if we were playing a video game, Trostel signs you up with the screen name Filmgizmo and so begins an 8-bit adventure in learning the core values of the CCC. The first rule? Be excellent to each other.
It is certainly an experience to catch a glimpse of this world of hackers and nerds, all united in discussing and advocating for government transparency, freedom of information, and protecting privacy rights of individuals. It is easy to think of hackers as teenagers and lonely men hiding in their parents’ basements or, nowadays in particular, as government pawns manipulating world politics and economies. In actuality, hackers are a mix of people from diverse backgrounds and most are fundamentally concerned with the invasive policies of governments and corporations around the globe. Since their founding in Berlin in 1981, the CCC has been vital in protecting citizen privacy rights and exposing information security problems.
Under Trostel’s lens, the CCC no longer seems like some sort of secret meeting of intense nerds. Instead, it highlights the inclusivity of the club, something which is apparent in its fundamental values. Regardless of experience level or knowledge, all are welcome to come to an event to discuss technology, the future of the internet, or just learn a new skill like soldering.
Trostel paints an idyllic picture of the club, one that is full of parties and exploration and fun. However, this is a weakness of her film, as any club as large as the CCC (which has around 7,700 members) has its own internal problems. In particular, there have been troubling claims of sexism over the past few years, something which might have been interesting to examine against the backdrop of the liberal values they espouse. Nevertheless, she succeeds in bringing attention to an interesting group of people actively working towards making the world a better place, and maybe that is enough for one film.