From illustrating for Sesame Street to exposing the New World Order, this is the story of the controversial and recently departed David Dees, unofficial artist of conspiracy theory culture. What sent him down the rabbit hole, and is there a path out?
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Do you see what I see?
Directed by Brad Abrahams
Excerpts from the Full Review – www.shortoftheweek.com/2021/07/22/do-you-see-what-i-see/
“From director Brad Abrahams comes a profile documentary so surreal and entrenched in the life of controversial conspiracy theorist artist David Dees, that your understanding of reality from the ‘other side’ might just come into focus. While the views of the artist in question are far from relatable, growing distrust of our institutions give way to an alarming amount of people who will understand where Dees is coming from. Abrahams’ unsettling portrait of a man is so human and full of empathy that it’s hard not to feel a deep connection to both Dees’ beliefs and the brilliant, yet problematic works of art he created. A film that will frustrate, enlighten, and enrage, it provides a chilling word of warning for us all.
The spread of misinformation is now so commonplace that the issues Do you see what I see? raises, is not to be ignored. Glimpsing into the psyche of someone who has gone so far down the rabbit hole, they are living in an alternate reality is a work of fiction spun from fear. Yet for Dees, this wasn’t always the case. Before the recently departed David Dees was the unofficial conspiracy theory artist for the masses, he was an artist for Sesame Street for 13 years with a promising future ahead of him. Dees’ backstory and his beliefs are what ultimately drew Abrahams, whose body of work focuses on cryptozoologists, alien abductees, renegade scientists, & conspiracy theorists, to film a profile documentary about him. For Abrahams, probing into the psychology of people like Dees coupled with the allure of the unknown is worth exploring. “No matter how bizarre the person or tale, my M.O. is to present them in a nonjudgmental, non-marginalizing manner, with disarming sincerity. Because of the darkness of his beliefs, profiling David Dees turned out to be the most challenging subject yet,” Abrahams tells Short of the Week.
Abrahams wanted to juxtapose the two halves of Dees persona, a sensitive empath and rabid conspiracy theorist, allowing for enough empathy to suspend judgment. He argues that conspiracy theories used to be a phenomena most of the public could laugh at and disregard, but we no longer have that luxury. “They can consume lives, destroy families, and lead to violence,” Abrahams points out. “Instead of othering or ignoring the believers, we must understand how they got there and why they believe, so we can create a dialogue that helps pull them back from the abyss.” But there’s no denying that Dees’ extremist art and online presence are in any way forgivable. Abrahams asks a lot of his audience – perhaps too much.
Attempting to bring back someone from “the abyss” is a massive undertaking for any one individual let alone a single filmmaker, and yet, Do you see what I see? manages to humanize its protagonist in such a way that it’s hard to write Dees off as a lost cause. It’s therefore even more unfortunate and emotionally impactful due to Dees’ passing – he’ll never get that chance. In this way, Abrahams treads into a gray area of ethics that’s hard to navigate for any documentarian.” – S/W Curator Chelsea Lupkin
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.