Welcome to this issue’s instalment in ‘Indie Dive’, a series that delves into the recesses of the independent film world and pulls out a gem. Each Indie Dive column spotlights a lesser known indie film, hopefully convincing you to add it to your film queue. Given the UK release of Patriot’s Day, a film about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, part four of the Indie Dive series brings you Help Us Find Sunhil Tripathi.
Help Us Find Sunhil Tripathi is a fascinating, well-crafted documentary about a story with which many may not be familiar. On the 16th of March 2013, Sunhil Tripathi, a Brown University student suffering from depression, walked out of his apartment front door. His family and friends launched a social media campaign to search for him and bring him home.
Nearly a month later, on the 15th of April, two bombs were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. When the police released blurred photos of the bombing suspects, suddenly Sunhil and his family were dragged into a narrative they never expected. One person on social media thought Sunhil bore a resemblance to one of the suspect photos. Users on Reddit analysed the photos of the suspects and of Sunhil, and convinced many that Sunhil was in fact on one the bombers. From there, the speculation snowballed until even traditionally reputable sources were reporting on it.
The documentary details just how out of hand the situation grew, how opinions on social media sites compounded, and how journalists and traditional media jumped on the bandwagon with little to no fact checking or source vetting. Help Us Find Sunhil Tripathi explores the implications of criminal investigations in the digital age, highlights lower standards on social media for ‘news’, and raises questions about journalistic integrity in the fast-paced news cycle where each outlet is racing to break the story first…even if it isn’t true.