The Upper Footage is a “found footage” film about a girl’s tragic death from a drug overdose. She dies while partying with a group of New York socialites who attempt to cover up her death. We are told this is an edited version of 393 minutes of footage recovered from a camera that was used by one of the socialites on the night of the incident. Parts of the footage have made it to the internet over the past couple of years. The complete events from that night were never shown to the public…until now.
In the beginning, the viewer is given “the story so far” to learn a bit of the history behind the footage they are about to show. We see how the media and public have been teased with clips and bits of information about this footage for years, from short YouTube clips being posted and then taken down, to media outlets speculating on who “Jackie” really is in the videos. All of these visuals are meant to convince us that the story is real. The amateur quality of the footage helps ground this story into reality. By the end of the film, the viewer is left to question whether or not the death that they witnessed was real.
The film gives a disturbing view into the lives of the very rich. The socialites are able to order drugs like most people order Chinese takeout. They look down on those less fortunate, which in this case is just about everyone. The film does really well in selling the stereotypical image of how life is for “the 1%”. This perception of the 1% is reinforced with the introduction of Jackie.
Jackie’s face is always pixilated out “to protect her true identity.” Jackie’s lack of identity makes everyone “Jackie” and allows the viewer to easily put themselves in her place and connect with the character. This connection helps you empathize with Jackie as you hear how the socialites talk about her when she is not within ear shot. We hear their plan for the unfortunate young lady, furthering the idea of Jackie merely being a play thing and not a person. All of these elements help us feel very sorry for Jackie when we see her lifeless body in the bathroom, at which point things get darker and creepier.
Unfortunately, it was also at this point in the film that made me question the believability of the footage. Maybe it was the way the dialog seemed cliché, or perhaps it was the unbelievable actions of the socialites after Jackie’s death that made me believe less in what I was seeing. While many of the reactions of the people on screen seemed authentic, there was also just a bit of a manufactured feel to it. It could be that I have seen so many “found footage” movies that I find it hard to believe anything that is presented as “actual footage”. I think this was one of the points the filmmaker was trying to make with this picture. The point that the line between what is real and what is fake has definitely become blurred, due in large part to mass media including found footage films.
Whether or not you believe the footage is real is not important. What is important is the message the film is trying to get across – that any one of us could be Jackie. It is this idea that makes The Upper Footage one of the better found footage films I have seen in a long time. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stubs.