Yesterday the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea lost their internet connection for over nine hours. The connection still remained spotty throughout the day. This comes only days after President Obama says the hack on Sony and subsequent terrorist threats would be met with response in kind. Now, there’s nothing out there that supports that the US was responsible for the attack. They probably weren’t. But North Korea will surely blame the US government, just as they are blaming them for being responsible for the movie that started all of this.
Originally I wasn’t going to write an article about this stuff. I made my opinion fairly clear in various social media rants and didn’t really feel like I had anything new to bring to the conversation. That was until my boss opened a meeting Monday morning calling the Sony hack and subsequent escalations a turning point in the world of IT Security. See, in my day job, I work as an IT Security professional, moonlighting as a cinephile, and have found myself in a unique position with these recent events effecting both of my worlds. They’ve kind of crashed into each other. I thought I’d be able to bring a unique perspective on everything.
So why is this a turning point for IT Security? Well, for years it has become an increasingly important part of business, with many companies spending more and more money each year to make sure that their data, and the data of their customers, is secure. As more and more business transactions take place online and more hardware becomes connected to and enabled by the Internet, this brings greater risk along with its benefits (which are many.) Increasingly, major hacks and breeches have started to bring mass media attention, attention that companies don’t want. Not only are businesses now having to deal with the cost of these breaches, but the cost of the negative media attention as well. Even if you’re not even remotely involved in the security/compliance world, you probably remember the Target breach from earlier this year. Many of you probably had to get sent a new credit card because of it. What a debacle and pain in the butt that was for Target and the many, many customers affected by, what was, a breach in IT Security.
And then we have the Sony hack. An attack that wasn’t motivated by money, but according to the FBI, a country’s dislike of a movie. The national attention brought on by this hack has once again tuned the world in to the importance of cyber security and the protection of data. This time, however, its not just financial threats, but threats of national security as well. We have a confirmed case of government sponsored ‘cyber vandalism’, to quote Obama. This will push the importance of Cyber Security to the forefront like never before. And all of this from a stoner comedy film starring two guys who most recently got attention for parodying Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
I’m going to take off my security hat for the rest of the article and replace it with my cinephile cap. I want to talk a little about what this all means for the future of film as an art form. Put bluntly, the major theater chains decision to not show The Interview was corporate cowardice. The theaters figured that if something actually did happen and someone got hurt, they would be liable for the damages and they weren’t willing to take that risk. They also were afraid that the same hackers that ripped Sony apart would refocus their attention on the theaters agreeing to show the movie.
I’ve heard a lot of people talking about this saying things like ‘It’s just a stupid movie, what’s the big deal’ ‘I’d rather people be safe than show a movie’. And on the surface, they’re right. We’re dealing with a Seth Rogen comedy here. Please refer to photo above. I haven’t seen the movie, but a few critics have and I’ve read the reviews. It seems like its good, not great. If it wasn’t for this controversy I don’t know if anyone would be talking about this movie 5-10 years from now.
But I don’t think its about The Interview specifically. It’s about all the other movies that won’t get made. We already know one movie, a Steve Carrell/Gore Verbinski thriller set in North Korea, set to begin filming next March has been cancelled. But there are countless other movies that we might never know about that might not happen. How long til studios are willing to take another chance on a risky movie? Where do we draw the line on what movies are too offensive? Film is an art form, and one of the most important things when it comes to art is freedom of expression. With the decision by the major theater chains and by Sony, we’ve said that we’re willing to limit that freedom of expression at the whims of a foreign dictator. We can not be ok with this.
I’m not sure where this thing will end. Tensions between North Korea and the United States are continuing to escalate, arthouse cinemas are signing petitions to request that Sony allow the film to show in their theaters, and the general consensus among Americans seems to be one of outrage and disappointment at our willingness to cow to a another nation’s demands so easily. One thing that’s sure is The Interview will be remembered as one of the most important films of all time, even if nobody ever actually gets to see it.
Update! As I was finishing this article and preparing to post it, it was announced that Sony will allow limited showings of The Interview on Christmas Day to any theaters that want it. The Alamo Drafthouse, one of my favorite independent Cinema chains has already jumped on the opportunity and will show the film. I urge every single one of you to go see this movie if you can and support these small arthouse cinemas willing to stand up for what they think is right. Show the people of the world that we won’t back down to terrorist threats. Show the big theater chains that they were wrong in deciding not to play the movie. Show future filmmakers that films that push the envelope are needed and respected. And most importantly, show Kim Jong Un that he’s a fucking asshole.