Films: Barbershop Punk

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Barbershop Punk

Barbershop Punk

USA, 2010, 84 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Documentary, Political, Technology/Science
Program: Documentary Films
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Georgia Sugimura Archer, Kristin Armfield
Producer: Kristin Armfield, Georgia Sugimura Archer
Editor: Matt Kregor, Jose Pulido
Cinematographer: Amy Sharp
Principal Cast: 

This insightful documentary chronicles the efforts of a self-described nobody, former quality assurance engineer Robb Topolski, to blow the whistle on the FCC and telecommunications giant Comcast in a dispute over net neutrality that is far from resolved: no less than the future of information is at stake as corporations fight for the right to control the World Wide Web.

A one-time barbershop quartet baritone, Topolski found his new calling when he attempted to download some of his favorite musical scores for fellow enthusiasts. Much to his dismay, Comcast shut down his transmissions on the grounds that file-sharing traffic cuts into the company’s profits, using a method Topolski dubs the “great firewall of China.” After exhaustive technological sleuthing, Topolski found that such network management is commonplace, effectively limiting the information available to the public. Concerns about censorship and free access are at the core of the arguments put forth throughout the documentary by such strange bedfellows as the Christian Coalition, pro-choice organization NARAL, social-justice coalition The Raging Grannies and various musicians. Interviewees include former Grateful Dead lyricist and Electronic Foundation Frontier cofounder John Perry Barlow; legendary Black Flag frontman and ubiquitous talking head Henry Rollins; comedienne/actress Janeane Garofalo; Mike McCurry, the White House Press Secretary during the Clinton administration; FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein; and more.

Filmmaker Georgia Sugimura Archer also incorporates clips from home movies depicting Robb Topolski’s small-town childhood, presenting her subject as an average, fun-loving family guy as she follows him from his home in Portland, Oregon through to his well-researched testimony at an FCC hearing at Stanford and his subsequent attempts to inform the public about corporate wrongdoing.
—Juliet Sherwood

In cooperation with ACLU of Colorado, League of Women Voters

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