In this era of global terrorism and unprecedented government surveillance, our collective sense of fear and paranoia has rarely been so elevated. That's certainly the case for the subjects of the fascinating documentary titled Targeted Individuals. Produced by the always reliable and provocative VICE News, the film profiles a growing subculture that shares the belief that their every move is being monitored and manipulated as part of an ominous global conspiracy.
The film opens at a conference in the U.K. which is attended by more than 60 of these targeted individuals. Some claim they are frequently stalked by operatives who stop and feed them messages on the street. Others say they have implanted devices in their heads which allow these forces to read their thoughts and transmit communications via satellite.
The Internet has provided a forum where new and established members of this community can converse about their struggles, and organize a movement to support one another while raising public awareness. Many of them feel isolated, fearful, and ill-equipped to hold a job or successfully communicate their plight to others outside of the community.
The filmmakers do not approach these troubled subjects with snarky cynicism. Instead, they provide them with an opportunity to express their beliefs and experiences without the fear of ridicule. Flagrant criticism would only burrow them further into their shell of isolation. One of the most prominent members of the community shows a recent CAT scan and dental x-ray which both indicate the appearance of a mystery implant. Another shows the lead sheet she wears to protect herself from alien transmissions, and discusses her impulse to move from city to city to avoid being tracked.
The medical community justifiably believes these individuals suffer from varying degrees of schizophrenia and other mental disorders. The Internet has empowered them to seek out the companionship of others who share in their delusions. Society at large has a shameful history when it comes to addressing mental health concerns. These are some of the victims who have fallen through the cracks, and their conditions have only worsened as they've begun to organize in greater numbers.
Targeted Individuals is an intensely empathetic portrait of mental illness that feels specific to our current culture of unease.