Travelogues were a mainstay of early cinema, which focused on “exotic” and picturesque slices of life in Asia or Oceania for Western audiences. Usually shot from a moving vehicle, these films were accompanied by lectures and emphasized the spectacle of the country’s foreignness, of seeing something completely unfamiliar to one’s own life. As the medium of film continued to develop, so did the travel documentary’s form and function, gradually transforming from a collective gape at the unusual to advertisements for tourism. Now, travelers can document their own journeys (as problematically or unproblematically as they like) to share with family and strangers online—if they get enough views, they can even get a little money or a sponsorship out of it.
G. Anthony Svatek’s .TV incorporates and responds to the conventions of the travelogue’s troublesome history, and fuses it with a critique of a different group of “foreigners”: the film combines footage of Tuvalu taken entirely from YouTube with the output of vloggers, amateur filmmakers, and other content-makers who host their videos on .tv websites, the country’s official domain name. The world’s fourth-smallest nation, Tuvalu is currently threatened by rising sea levels caused by climate change, but gets a significant stream of income from selling the .tv domain. The careless, excessive use of energy and other resources by people in these larger, foreign countries (who perhaps don’t know Tuvalu is endangered) finds an echo in the endlessness of the internet and all things digital. Svatek’s hybrid documentary interrogates capitalism’s role to mitigate what seems to be an inevitable tide—of water, of streaming video, of environmental ruin, of consumption. —Violet Lucca