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Barbershop Punk –by Georgia Sugimura Archer – Starz Denver Film Festival

The day after the 2010 elections, CNN Money posted a telling story, “Final nail in coffin for Net neutrality?” With more GOP in Congress, the threat of cable companies using their corporate influence in the form of lobby dollars to control our access to online content could become a reality. Yes. Control our access to the internet. Companies like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T deciding what you have access to and how fast you can access said information or websites.

Directed by Georgia Sugimura Archer and Kristin Armfield, the actual story behind “Barbershop Punk,” a documentary that appeared earlier this year at SXSW and received a Selection prize in the process, started quite innocently. As obscure as you can get, it was the search for barbershop musical scores to fuel a personal passion by quality assurance engineer Robb Topolski, which turned into a FCC hearing involving a dispute with Comcast over net neutrality.

Being an engineering geek, his search and download of barbershop-related audio files seems to be excessively slow. Running a data transmission process online, he learned that his suspicions were not his imagination.

As this story unfolds, directors Archer and Armfield expand their reach beyond Topolski, interviewing a wide variety of folks, from former Grateful Dead lyricist and Electronic Foundation Frontier cofounder John Perry Barlow and FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, to lead singer of OKGo Damian Kulash (remember the EMI skirmish with the band’s videos on YouTube?) who have experienced first hand the impact that this corporate control could have over the internet and its citizens.

Fighting against it is being done in a very punk rock fashion, to push back on these company’s abilities to influence how we think and feel, what we read and see. Henry Rollins states frankly (as always), “If Time-Warner can limit my internet access, that is like, ‘Wow. I’m living in an Orwelliannightmare.'”

“Barbershop Punk” plays the Starz Denver Film Festival November 11, 12.



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