Good Neighbours

A revealing window into the world of intimate surveillance in neighbourhood communities.

Traversing farmlands, cobbled streets and bustling buroughs, Good Neighbours exposes the world of intimate surveillance in neighbourhood communities. Drawing on personal first-hand accounts from characters in four different cities, this is the story of citizens who watch their streets and each other. At its core Good Neighbours explores the universal human need for safety and togetherness. But it doesn’t always end well. The viewer is given a glimpse into the darker side of neighbourhood watch groups as psychological and physical violence looms large. Neighbours reveal how they use technology like Nextdoor, WhatsApp and Ring doorbell cameras to patrol their streets, almost like the police. The viewer is confronted with people’s vulnerability and their fear of losing what they have, further exaggerated through their security devices. Ultimately the series poses a number of urgent questions: Why are neighbours so eager to join surveillance groups? Who is a stranger? And what makes them so suspicious? Who decides who belongs to a neighbourhood?

Good neighbours is an online documentary series with an additional mobile app (already developed) and live performance. The online documentary series presents the stories of neighbourhood communities in a linear format through 4 episodes of 20-25 minutes each.

By Natalie Dixon, Klasien van de Zandschulp.

We are planning to film in four different locations; Amsterdam, Johannesburg, São Paulo and New York City, each presenting a unique context, history and social tensions. For example, Johannesburg’s smart CCTV networks are driving an AI-powered apartheid, in São Paulo surveillance culture is tied to WhatsApp messaging groups which are infamous for vigilantism and fake news and in New York the neighbourhood surveillance is synonymous with Ring doorbell cameras, owned by Amazon and part of a growing market for smart-home surveillance worth an estimated USD 1.4 billion by 2023. Street-level activism against door- bell cameras is growing amongst disgruntled New Yorkers who feel victimised. The city of Amsterdam has formalised intimate surveillance through pub- lic-private partnerships involving technology giants in Silicon Valley, such as NextDoor and WhatsApp. The one thing that connects these cities: a growing intimate surveillance culture.

We are now looking for compelling stories with great characters in other countries as well, such as neighbourhoods in cities or rural areas in Switzerland, France, Germany, Russia, Australia or Japan. The locations are different, but there is a universal need for connection and togetherness.

Production details:
In collaboration with affect lab

Country: The Netherlands
Status: In development, expected in 2022
Running time: ’20 / ’25 minutes each

Online documentary series