The 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail came at a time when we were still giddily excited about the miracle of public internet and email. The technology served as the catalyst for a new kind of love story. A year later, The Matrix famously tapped into our anxieties about what could happen if technology evolved beyond our control, depicting a dystopian future in which humans were subdued in a simulated reality created by sentient machines. Since then, the rate at which films put digital centre stage has accelerated, bringing to the screen all our newly felt hopes and fears.
Those conflicting feelings of excitement and anxiety had been captured before, most brilliantly by Stanley Kubrick in his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, but this time it was different. By the late 90s, digital technology had pretty much become the norm for people in the Western world. We all had computers, the internet and cellphones, causing us to develop a much more personal connection to the digital stories being told.
Since the turn of the millennium, our personal connection to digital technology has deepened further, and enough time has passed for amazing true stories to emerge. Stories about its potential to make dreams come true. In a world where digital applications are the backdrop to the stories of our lives and our futures, we face entirely new situations and possibilities.
This year at Toronto International Film Festival, we’ll catch a glimpse of this new reality in the true story Lion. Lost at the age of five, Saroo (played by Dev Patel) dreams of reuniting with his long lost family. Using Google Earth and the scantest of clues, he sets out on a journey to reunite with his past.
Lion is a feel-good tale that taps into the hope we have for a brighter future; the belief in the human spirit to overcome difficult odds. This particular tale gives our digital future a positive outlook, and is exactly the sort of story that can inspire younger generations.
I look forward to seeing the full spectrum of wonderful, weird, and dark films in the coming years as filmmakers get to grips with telling and fictionalizing our digital stories.
Catch the world premiere of Lion on September 10 as part of Our Digital Future presented by SAP at Toronto International Film Festival.