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How Far is Too Far?: The Game of Death Predictably Stirring Debate

A documentary film project that I’ve been keeping tabs on since I first heard about it last February, is not surprisingly, causing quite the stir. Rezo Films’ The Game of Death, a docu experiment that filmed knowing, and unknowing participants in a mock game show that mimicked Stanley Milgram’s famed experiment — but this time in the context of reality television.

A documentary film project that I’ve been keeping tabs on since I first heard about it last February, is not surprisingly, causing quite the stir. Rezo Films’ The Game of Death, a docu experiment that filmed knowing, and unknowing participants in a mock game show that mimicked Stanley Milgram’s famed experiment — but this time in the context of reality television. Paul Scheuring’s upcoming thriller The Experiment is a variation of this experiment. The Game of Death aired on French television yesterday and has been causing a media storm. Thomas Bornot, Alain-Michel Blanc and Gilles Amado’s doc was featured on ABC’s Nightline and Screen Daily just put up a reaction piece releasing some disturbing stats:

“the show’s host encouraged the contestants to continue administering shocks of increasing voltage for every wrong answer provided by the respondent. Disturbingly, despite the screams of protest heard from the respondent, 81% of the contestants carry on sending shocks up to the end of the range.”

I don’t deem France as a nation of goats – in their society, the government is afraid of its citizens and not the other way around. There is no need in arguing whether this is part of our DNA – but I wonder if the numbers would be significantly higher or lower on a nation by nation basis? How would a nation that created the game show concept, has profited from reality television and is obsessed with 15 minutes of fame fair in such an experiment?

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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