Produced by Lucy Summer, Alex Needles,
Brent Stiefel, Greg Stewart
Written and Directed by Adam Bhala Lough
Featuring Cody Wilson, Amir Taaki
The New Radical follows the story of two young men with very different ways of addressing an idealism for truth and freedom with a cynicism about the structures of government and society while exhibiting a youthful exuberance and cocky pride about being right and proving that to the world.
Are these guys heroes or villains? They can’t give you the answer.
Adam Bhala Lough, whose previous documentaries have focused on subjects as varied as skateboarders and the musician Lee “Scratch” Perry, gives us a look at young anarchists and libertarians and their search for meaning in our post-media-saturated world.
We are first introduced to Cody Wilson and his quest to create a 3-D printer-based gun. A law school drop-out who had to learn and hack together his plans against the wishes of even the 3-D printer manufacturers, Cody is the essence of a self-assured righteousness that doesn’t allow for doubt about whether he should be doing this or not. He has a mixture of the joy of figuring things out and the defiance of “How dare you tell me I can’t do something.” His quest and legal troubles are the focus of most of the film.
There is an extensive interview with Julian Assange that is spread throughout the documentary to provide some context. Other experts and individuals on all sides of these issues are tapped for opinions that flesh out what is going on and how it fits into a broader discussion of First Amendment, Second Amendment, national security, and internet information issues.
At some point Cody is invited to England to speak at an anarchist conference on disruptive acts organized by the other main subject of the film, Amir Taaki.
Amir is a whip-smart programmer and avowed anarchist who squats in abandoned buildings and “liberates” what he needs from the powers that be oppressing society. He makes news as an advocate for the virtual currency BitCoin (in the news recently as its “value” has skyrocketed). That BitCoin is used as a money laundering tool or to purchase illegal drugs and other things online is of little concern to Taaki. He loves it for the unregulated freedom unchained by any physical governing body.
Wilson and Taaki join to push the buttons of society by creating a project that protects the privacy of BitCoin transactions but, by their own admission or rather bragging, could be used by criminals to avoid detection. Before this becomes reality though, Taaki disappears. Wilson doesn’t know if he’s dead, incarcerated or what happened.
In the meantime, Wilson has finally decided that making money is also a good thing and is manufacturing gun parts for an aftermarket to modify semi-automatic rifles to do things the government would rather you not do. This plays directly into Wilson’s ego and love of the “poke-you-in-the-eye” style of dealing with society’s conventions.
The documentary seemed like it went on a bit too long but was broken up into several chapters that could give its target audience, Millennials, a chance to pause and get more munchies before continuing. This stacks up well alongside shows from the Vice network and the works of Louis Theroux. You won’t get an answer to the question of whether these guys are heroes or villains but you will get enough information that you’ll know which side you’d place them on.
The New Radical is now playing in theaters and On Demand