Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bendito machine: ecstasy and a sense of doom #EDCMOOC

Bendito machine is a rather eerie animation film that made me feel uncomfortable, and you know why? Because it is such a real story of our over-enthusiasm and worship of new gadgets. I identify with the tribals shown in the film because we were exactly like them when television first came into the Indian market. When people first began buying this new machine called television, there was wonder and amazement. The whole neighbourhood used to gather in The House with Something Called TV when the show was about to begin! We had to erect a humongous antenna above our house to get a clear picture, and very often it didn't work and we had to keep changing the direction of the antenna in an attempt to get better reception. We have thrown away many versions of many gadgets since, and I wonder if we are better off now.

The animation in Bendito machine is based on shadow puppetry and is done brilliantly. The film is both utopic and dystopic because it manages to capture beautifully, people's fascination for new machines, the high it gives them, and then their slave-like submission, and finally their irreverent rejection of the very same machine when a new one comes down from the sky. The rust and yellow used in the background create the right mood in the film -- one of ecstasy and somehow, a sense of doom.

I think it would be useful for me to try and attempt to answer the questions raised.

What is this film suggesting are the ecological and social implications of an obsession or fixation on technology
Social implications would be the changed lifestyles of people and their negligence of other activities after the advent of the new gadget. The tribals follow the TV god wherever he goes, and they do whatever he tells them to do. Ecological implications are symbolised by the stark ambience of the film, by the absence of green, by the piles of e-waste and a sole bird trying to feed on these piles.

Do the film’s characters have any choice in relation to their technologies? 
Perhaps they do, but it seems like they have no choice because what they do is an activity driven by human will, not necessarily to meet a need. The man climbing up a steep hill perhaps signifies the research that happens in the R&D labs of Apple or Samsung.

What are the characteristics of various technologies as portrayed in this film?
The perspective of this film is technological determinism where technology determines social change. Technology as shown in this film dominates human behaviour. However, despite this, human beings are in control because they constantly replace old technology with new, with no thought of the consequences of doing so.


  1. Sadhana,
    I totally agree with you.
    Sometimes we are consumed in getting new gadgets we end up spending more than we can afford in order to catch up with new technologies which are being launched.

  2. Sadhana, ur post is well written & nostalgic as it reminds me of the popularisation of TV in India in early 80s-- Asian Games, Indira Gandhi's assassination etc. The houses that boasted a TV were so crowded those days like festiv season. Also the antenna management placed the entire family in dif positions--some at the terrace, one at the courtyard, a few in front of TV...Dont we miss all such fun when everything is remote controlled?

  3. Thank you for your comments, Michele and Lakshmi.
    @Lakshmi: Yes, we do miss that kind of fun!