Sounds and Visions of Motherhood, Nature, and Technology merge beautifully in the Sundance documentary ‘Users.’

Filmmaker Natalia Almada takes audiences on a beautiful journey into nature and tech via her Sundance documentary ‘Users.’

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Filmmaker Natalia Almada takes audiences on a beautiful journey into nature and tech via her Sundance documentary ‘Users.’ Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

‘Users’ filmmaker Natalia Almada takes audiences on a mesmerizing journey into our natural world to witness dramatic impacts from technology. Almada’s creative skills place her in an elite circle of environmental storytellers, from Godfrey Reggio (‘QUATSI Trilogy’) to Jennifer Baichwal (‘Manufactured Landscapes’) and Viktor Kosakovskiy (‘Aquarela’). Sounds and visions of motherhood, nature, and technology merge beautifully and thoughtfully in ‘Users, making its premiere in the U.S. Documentary Competition section of the reimagined Sundance Film Festival 2021.

Almada directs and edits a rich movie experience with layers of soft-spoken narration and sound supporting extraordinary photography from ocean waves to raging forest fires. There’s not a dull moment in the movie.

Midway into the movie, you understand the benefits of Almada being a San Francisco-based filmmaker immersed in the startup and tech worlds. She proves to be an experienced observer with plenty of insights into the unstoppable creep of technology into our communities and lives. Tech is similar to the crashing ocean surf that plays a significant role in the movie. You cannot stop it.

‘Users’ is a family affair on both sides of the camera. Almada’s partner Dave Cerf (‘Tomorrowland’) collaborates with Kronos Quartet as a sound designer and movie composer. From an early image of Almada’s newborn baby falling asleep in a smart crib, a core question drives storytelling throughout the movie. Is my baby going to love tech like a smart crib more than me?

Cinematographer Bennett Cerf delivers intimate images of ocean surf and raging forest fires in place of commonplace scenes of people staring into their smartphones.

Almada and her crew’s collaborative work delivers thoughtful moviemaking that results in a movie best described as philosophical and contemplative. A camera lens still reminds us of the supercomputer HAL in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ An old oil man looks at his desert wells and questions his prospects.

“I can look into the future, and I don’t see myself in it,” he says, speaking to the camera. It’s similar to the questions you’ll find yourself asking after traveling through the indoor farms, massive container ships, and raging forest fires throughout ‘Users.’ What is our world becoming? What’s my place in it? ‘Users’ is the rare film sparking these philosophical questions.

Directors: Natalia Almada

Editor: Natalia Almada

Cinematographer: Bennett Cerf

Production: Department of Motion Pictures

Distributor: Endeavor Content

Unrated

Air Date: TBD.

Behind the Curtain: A Dolby Institute grant for independent filmmakers provides Dolby Atmos audio technology to ‘Users.’ The beautiful sound will have you wishing for a soundtrack.

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