Provocative doc examines charismatic anarchist TheWrap

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“The New Radical” is designed to cause discomfort. How could he not? At the heart of this moving documentary is a character who divides, someone who not only deserves controversy, but invites it.

That man is Cody Wilson, a resident of Austin, Texas, a self-proclaimed crypto-anarchist and gun rights activist. This latter descriptor (“gun activist”) is something constantly debated within the confines of director Adam Bhala Lough’s prismatic portrayal. It is this ongoing ethical and moral debate that makes the film so ideologically fascinating.

It is unlikely that a movie about Wilson could be shot otherwise. The 20-year controversy gained worldwide attention in 2012, when he and his cronies, under the Defense Distributed banner, launched the “Wiki Weapon Project,” a vigorous attempt to raise funds both to design and publish the downloadable 3D files. printable gun. In short: an open source creation that would allow anyone with a 3D printer to, in theory, self-build a weapon.

Naturally, Wilson’s advanced (and potentially harmful) machinery was not for everyone. Many were (and still are) mortified by the prospect of 3D gun printing becoming a staple in America. As portrayed in the film, dissidents believe it will lead to more violence, more bloodshed. The lack of thorough background checks and the emergence of unhindered power is, for detractors, too unnerving to be understood.

Wilson, on the other hand, deploys scholarly proclamations, extolling the virtues of free market anarchism and armed citizenship, resulting in what he believes is the only way to have a pure form of democracy. Clips interspersed throughout the film show Wilson defending his position with talk show hosts, evening news anchors and skeptical reporters. Every on-air interview reveals Wilson’s brilliance. They also reveal his sufficiency.

As far as Wilson’s presentation goes, “The New Radical” sits somewhere in the middle. Choosing neither to condemn nor to celebrate, Bhala Lough skillfully follows this delicate line throughout the film. This does not mean that the film is without perspective, opinion or voice; it’s clear that those involved in the project have at least some admiration for Wilson.

This admiration is not limited to filmmakers, however. In the form of a diptych, “The New Radical” revolves around the cheeky British programmer Amir Taaki. Amid Wilson’s public ancestry, Taaki reached out. He was intrigued by Wilson’s politics. Their bond, as the film relays, has evolved into a business called Dark Wallet, a Bitcoin app that allows its users to sink in the face of government oppression. Wilson and Taaki claim this is how people fight Big Brother surveillance.

There is more nuance and complexity to these concepts, and the documentary does a phenomenal job covering a lot of ground. Only occasionally do you get the impression that Bhala Lough is keeping the film apolitical. Is it the responsibility of the documentary maker to take a stand? Should films of this nature refrain from editorial commentary or should they intervene?

The truth is, nothing in “The New Radical” is conceived without rhyme or reason. Each segment presented is, in itself, a commentary on Wilson and Taaki; it can’t help but be. But there is a conversation to be had about Bhala Lough’s responsibility to challenge and interrogate these grand concepts. He is not a journalist – and he did not position himself as such either – but as a presenter of such information, the director is not immune to such questions.

From what we are shown in “The New Radical”, Wilson is a charismatic individual – good looking, intelligent, and good speaking. His ability to deconstruct counterarguments is impressive. His ideas, however, are potentially very dangerous, especially if they are not challenged or controlled. Philosophically, Wilson can be on to anything; waging war on a system that has little interest in serving its citizens makes sense. Promoting a democracy, and not an oligarchy, which is in fact ruled by the people, makes sense. Wilson is not without logic; but it has no sensible policy.

There aren’t any straightforward answers to be gleaned from Wilson and “The New Radical,” but the film offers an internal monologue that, over time, can start a conversation. By the nature of its central subject, it is a work that exasperates and excites. It is a deeply moving film, then, sporadically, full of hope.


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