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The lowest form of film is the Public Service Announcement. They are designed to be manipulative, a great sin in Cinema, as it brings the medium ever-closer to the level of propaganda. There have been very few that are significant enough to pay attention to, though some have seeped into the American subconscious, like Rachel Leigh Cook's anti-drug spot of the 1990s, or some of the Woody the Owl or Smoky the Bear pieces. Frankly, there's enough of this stuff out there that just sucks up airtime in the name of good messaging that it can hurt to watch daytime TV.
Then again, when given to a master, a PSA can go over the line into brilliance, powerful storytelling that throws the message still, but gives you so much more. Werner Herzog's From One Second to the Next is the best PSA ever created, and one of the most powerful short documentaries I've ever seen.
The topic is Texting and Driving, something so many of us do every day. I'll admit, I've been guilty of it many times. The need to be constantly connected makes us all idiots, and texting is one of the worst outcomes of that. Here, Werner presents us victims of us, the jerks who couldn't wait to send that message, who had to put everyone's life on the line for the sake of time-saving, information passing. The segment where we see the interviews with the driver and the daughter of a victim of his carelessness is incredibly painful, and powerful in a deep and dark way. It is vintage Herzog.
AT&T funded it, and I'm glad they did. Werner has always been an incredibly powerful filmmaker, and almost never goes deep into manipulation, but here, he is completely manipulative, it is the requirement of the genre, and he uses every tool he has ever experimented with, and makes an incredibly powerful statement.
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.