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July 25, 2011 | by  | in Film |
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Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure

Shut Up Little Man is a scintillating documentary that deals with both personal narratives and the ongoing sensation which is the viral spread of information. Matthew Bate’s debut feature-length documentary follows several different issues all wrapped around the idea of viral media, telling the tale of Mitch D and the fantastically named Eddie Lee Sausage, two small town boys from the American mid west who moved to San Francisco with big dreams of exciting futures. However, as reality tends to do, the dream came crashing down and the two mid 20 year olds found themselves in a crappy salmon-pink dump with cardboard-thin walls. Through the wall lived Peter and Raymond, roommates who, according to Eddie, “drank for a living.” One was a flamboyantly gay man; the other a stringent homophobe who claimed incessantly that he was a killer. This unlikely duo would fight constantly and the students on the other side of wall were treated to every second of it.

Mitch and Eddie began recording the transactions and the rest, as the film details, was history. Quickly the tapes were shared with friends who then copied them and passed on the immediately catching and quotable exchanges. Suddenly cartoonists, filmmakers, animators and radio disc jockeys were hooked. Matthew Bate tracks the journey of the material with impeccable attention to detail and the saga of copyright, ownership, moral ambiguity of found audio and the sheer pain of the true story of the two figures that were recorded is both intriguing and vaguely disgusting.

This film is gripping most of the way through but has the tendency to be dragged into the orbits of the egos of the figures interviewed. Although this in itself is an interesting reflection on the issues assessed it can get tiresome quickly. The most arresting thing, then, about Shut Up Little Man is its relevance to where we are today, over two decades after the vitriolic arguments took place. Issues of privacy and ownership of material are still at the forefront of debate relating to the internet and the phenomenon that is the YouTube popularity race. Bate’s documentary traces the roots of this issue and presents them as engaging and vital pieces of information with which to navigate and assess the way in which we are effected by information now.

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