Internationally acclaimed documentarian Ondi Timoner‘s latest work is one of her most timely. In “The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution,” the director examines the world of normal folks turned millionaire stock traders by taking a deeper look at the influence gaming, social media, and digital avenues had on the traditional American Dream. By interviewing the founders of WallStreetBets and Reddit, cryptocurrency devotees, TikTok stars, and bored housewives who struck gold with their new day trading pastime, the film shines a light on the younger generation of disenfranchised disruptors who are unafraid to lose it all if it means they can shake things up and change the world.
It’s a story that most of us have seen and heard before, but Timoner’s documentary feels modern and made for the social media generation. Her story is told with traditional talking head interviews and archival clips, but also through memes and flashy animation. It’s a fitting style for the film’s content, especially since many of these people learned how to trade by watching online how-to videos on YouTube. It’s the kind of movie that will make you think that you somehow missed out on also becoming wealthy, but then you’re quickly reminded that these kids had zero fear betting every last cent to their name in the name of leveling the playing field and “sticking it to the man.”
Timoner explores how Gen Z’s palpable distrust of media, government, corporations, and the system led to this phenomenon, and how the term “New Americans” came to represent those who love digital memes almost as much as they love the idea of getting rich quickly. It was the perfect storm for these gutsy twentysomethings, as the 2008 financial crisis opened doors. As banks were bailed out and crypto soared, Wall Street began offering “cheat codes” for beating the stock market game, and a new generation stepped up to take full advantage. They were dismissed as gullible and stupid by old school types, but who’s laughing now?
The more interesting and unique parts of the documentary come when Timoner tries to draw a connection between the Gamestop squeeze and the Capitol Insurrection on January 6th. It’s not as much of a stretch as you’d think, and she does a brilliant job tying the two events and ideologies together.
“The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution” can feel overwhelming at times, due to the sheer onslaught of the voluminous information that is fired at the audience at a rapid speed. It’s fast paced and energetic, which is an appropriate style for the content at hand.
By: Louisa Moore