Be Kind Rewind – Allegory of OpenSource

If you like d the idea of community in the movie, Be Kind Rewind, then you should learn more about the OpenSource movement. If you already love Open Source, you should watch this movie.

(Spoiler Warning.)(Possible classroom application at the end of the post.)

There are really three important groups of people interacting within the story. The main story revolves around three main characters who run a failing video store. Not DVDs, but tapes. Thus, the failing business. Not keeping up with the times, so to speak. Old business model. Old technology. Enter crises. Solution? audience participation in the production of derivative works. People love it. It doesn’t cost the movie studios a material dime in production. The new product is a hit. The store is making money. No harm, right?

Wrong. Enter the second group of people. The movie studios. Intellectual property rights invoked. Why? Not because it costs them money, but because their dominant position and practices are challenged. But the courts favor them. Why? It hurts the small store. Doesn’t help the big store move forward. Only maintains the status quo.

Enter the third party. The larger community. They get together to produce original, community based, low-production cost, content available free with donations encouraged. The outcome? For this particular story, the video store is lost and the big guys still win. Why? Because the laws are still on the books. This is story that demonstrates the potential for this new type of production, distribution, and consumption model, but makes it clear that it isn’t sustainable within the current legal system.

Sort of. Could they do it again? The movie doesn’t answer. Can they do it without a storefront out of which to work? The movie doesn’t answer. Would the community lose interest? More questions.

I great movie to get people talking about these issues, though. Another really important part of the movie, though was how each character was shaped for a specific argument. The simple-minded mastermind of the operation (Mos Def) had only a simple understanding of the idea of community-based participatory production. Jack Black was totally self-interested, but not in terms of financial gain. There were still plenty of opportunities for him to be motivated. The rest of the characters held some combination of these traits: simple, organized, self-interested, cooperation.

Great way to get students talking about the “social” operations of writing practices like blogging, wikis, and OpenSource projects.

A powerful production model. And a human one, too.