“It’s going to change everything… and I was ready for a change.” So states film director Doug Block near the beginning of Home Page, which Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center showcased in a special Thursday edition of the series during its 2019 Winter Season. The film, released 20 years ago, remains remarkably prescient when it comes to the development of the world wide web, and the internet as a whole.
The majority of the film covers internet blogging pioneer Justin Hall, and his instant celebrity status within this new online community, while still struggling to find a true home both within it and IRL (in real life). He openly states the web is his outlet and that he “used to have one secret he didn’t tell anybody, and a little while ago I put it up on the web.” He’s not alone. In the film, Julia Levy remarks, “I don’t feel comfortable saying stuff sometimes, but I feel more comfortable typing things.” Julie Peterson reinforces that by saying, “This medium… you can say whatever you want to say about yourself and you can say it to a million people. In one way, you’re exposing yourself completely, and in another way you’re at home and very safe.” As the film follows Justin’s journey, it becomes more apparent what he’s searching for. “I had to get used to people leaving,” he says. “I had to learn to milk a relationship so that I was ready for another one. Because that person’s going to leave anyway.” Near the end of the film, he concludes “You always end up back home somewhere, don’t you.”
It was this notion of home that director Doug Block expanded upon in the Q&A following the film. When asked what he thought watching the film 20 years later, he said “The theme of home kept coming back to me over and over again. The theme of people searching for a home on the web, in this very public forum.” Justin remarked how, 20 years later, his oversharing might not have been as beneficial. “I thought if we go out there and we’re sort of all just baring our souls, empathy would creep into us and flow out of us, and that’s not the case.” While he doesn’t mind it, he believes “The internet today is like a fracas free for all. It’s like a freak show, and that’s how our species is.”
Home Page will be available on DVD and via streaming platforms starting in April 2019 through Passion River Films. More information about the documentary is available at http://www.passionriver.com/homepagedocumentary.html.