Dutch art and design studio Metahaven investigates the role and power of propaganda in the social media age with their debut feature film The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda), made together with cinematographer Remko Schnorr and electronic musician Kuedo.
The film spotlights the Ukraine War, wading through misinformation and media allegations over who shot down Amsterdam flight MH17 in 2014, while navigating sharp exchanges between Russia's English language broadcaster Russia Today, and US news channel CNN. Conceived for cinema as well as online presentation, the hybrid documentary combines green screen manipulations, YouTube footage, and interviews with authors and theorists Benjamin H. Bratton, Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, and Peter Pomerantsev. The Sprawl argues that the Internet has become a disruptive geopolitical super weapon and a de facto sovereignty, which has no norm. How can we keep track and make sense of truth in a digitally networked world? Not just everyone with access to a smartphone can document events and disseminate information, automated bots are increasingly used to steer public opinion. "The effect, the spin of the information is much more important than the factual content," says Daniel van der Velden, co-founder, with Vinca Kruk, of Metahaven. The problem is: Who has the power of interpretation?