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Keeping It Real
A Film by Sunny Bergman
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film stillThis offbeat documentary, philosophical in scope but funny and down-to-earth, investigates why an increasing number of people in our modern, highly developed societies, are eagerly seeking "authentic," real-life experiences.

Perhaps, as more of our everyday reality is experienced through media representations, giving us the impression of being surrounded by artificiality, many have developed a vague sense of dissatisfaction, a feeling that we're not fully experiencing all that life has to offer.

One result has been the development of an "experience economy," in which companies offer "authentic" experiences, a chance to witness or even participate in real-life adventures. Filmmaker Sunny Bergman examines this increasing demand for "authenticity," while at the same time trying to fathom the meaning of the concept itself, both in her own life and that of so many others.

KEEPING IT REAL profiles a sailor and world adventurer whose exploits are marketed in books, photos and videos to fascinated, wannabe adventurers; goes behind-the-scenes of a city tour with a real-life "homeless" person; interviews an African immigrant whose life experience fulfills a Western fantasy of being more connected to nature; follows an office worker who takes a year off to sail alone around the world; and questions pop-music stars how they distinguish between their public personas and real lives.

The idealized representations of "authenticity" being promoted or pursued are shown to be inherently inauthentic or at least illusory. The "experience economy" inevitably finds itself marketing the false and inauthentic as somehow "realer" than the real. So KEEPING IT REAL asks in the end, is the disappointing truth that authenticity has become just one more marketing cliché, a cliché that supersedes the reality?

"Fascinating! Recommended!"—Educational Media Reviews Online

"Reveals a fascinating portrait of the experience economy, in which everything down to a trip to the restroom at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum has to be an adventure."—Het Parool (Netherlands)

"The makers of this documentary have succeeded in making a new, more real version of what's real."—Spits (Netherlands)

"Shakes up the parameters of [documentary filmmaking]. KEEPING IT REAL makes a brave move in the right direction by nosing around in the experience economy and the trade in the product called authenticity... A successful, charming visual exploration of a problem that preeminently occupies documentary filmmakers."—NRC Handelsblad, (Netherlands)

2005 American Sociological Association Film Festival
2004 Dutch Women's Film Festival, Amsterdam
2004 Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival

51 minutes / Color
English; Dutch / English subtitles
Release: 2004
Copyright: 2003

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Advertising & Marketing, Anthropology, Business and Economics, Communications, Cultural Studies, Economic Sociology, Geography, Media Studies, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Urban Studies

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