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Drone God

Find Fix Finish
Find Fix Finish shows the director's personal perceptions of the drone technology.


In our completely media-fixed age, there is nothing extraordinary about being photographed. But in some cases this is perceived in a quite different way: We know of the deep distrust of people from certain ancient cultures, who refuse to be photographed because it is often associated with something deadly.

But in our own culture, in a world of advanced observation systems, being considered is not at all a neutral state. Being observed in a "wrong place" can easily lead to persecution, torture, and even death. Some of us may remember that, as a child, we had a natural, intuitive reluctance to make audio recordings of us.

In modern film culture, perhaps the most impressive work combining espionage and killing, Michael Powells Peeping Tom (1960), where the protagonist uses his film camera as a murder weapon.

Deadly observation. The techno-philosophical basis for the relationship between seeing and killing was developed by the French cultural theorist Paul Virilio. He combined the complexity of this relationship with two other important problems: the ever-increasing speed of technological development, which prevents people from influencing processes, and the "information bomb" as a new deadly means toorientering.

The observer is a kind of god who can kill anyone, at any time

The drone technology brings all these dimensions to a technical climax. The drones, invisible to the observed victims, follow their human goals for weeks and months, sometimes even over years. These goals remain unidentified, unnamed subjects for their viewers; they are identified only by a metadata analysis system, which classifies them as a potential threat.

The remarkable short film Find Fix Finish by Sylvain Cruiziat and Mila Zhluktenko were recently shown during the Swiss Visions du Réel festival. The film focuses on the strange and perverse relationship in the high-tech sector between the observer and the one being observed: The observer is in an ambivalent position in that, on the one hand, he is a kind of god who can kill anyone at any time, and on the other hand depends on the order to act, which comes from somewhere further up the system.

What thoughts and feelings are going through the minds of these observers? What soldiers in the field primarily seek to avoid is to look directly at their victims. For drone warriors, however, it is the number one goal. They need through the private sphere of their victims to a degree that has never been possible before. One of the agents discovered the extent of the forced voyeurism when he had to look at the victim having sex on a rooftop. In another voiceover, an agent admits that his infrared camera even allows him to see feces coming out of the victim's body, and that he has witnessed this hundreds of times when he has been on duty. But what really humanizes the victims is seeing them behave as loving fathers who hug their children and attend weddings and funerals.

Goals, not people. It becomes a necessity to be able to stand outside the situation. Another voiceover in the film makes this clear: "Have you ever stepped on an ant bar without thinking about it afterwards?" For the sake of the observer's mental health, the victims cannot be seen as real people.

Visually, Sylvain Cruiziat and Mila Zhluktenk emphasize this transformation into a filtered reality through the continuous use of drone perspective. In some particularly notable scenes, the shadow of the observed goal appears more clearly than the individuals themselves. In addition, there are a number of linguistic abbreviations that underpin the separation process. For example, the murder order Find, Fix, Finish simply called "3F".

But reality comes back in the form of well-founded doubts – such as when a target object is on the observation list just because his son was killed in a previous CIA attack. Occasionally, people who have had some form of physical contact with an important goal, for example in connection with a public event, become a target themselves.

The "information bomb" sometimes makes wrong decisions. Goals are not precisely defined and identified as human beings, but as objects selected on the basis of patterns and behavior. The amount of such erroneously designated, innocent victims – a fact that is often known only months later – is quite overwhelming. What are the human consequences of all this knowledge of possible mistakes? It may be a rather grotesque last move of humanity: "We waited until he had left his son's grave, and we got ready to put an end to him."

One of the agents had to watch the victim have sex on a rooftop

Find Fix Finish uses some fixation elements. The consistently compact cinematographic work draws us efficiently and quickly into the hidden world of secret services. This is carefully based on literary sources that provide both personal testimonies and technical details, as explained in the film's scrolling text.

Dieter Wieczorek
Dieter Wieczorek
Wieczorek is a critic living in Paris.

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