By Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
This Documentary interviews New Yorkers as they navigate online dating during the summer of 2020. Dating is difficult enough, whether using matching-making apps or doing it the old fashioned way. But then the pandemic hit and a need for human connection became even stronger. This is at the heart of Documentarian Pancho Velez’s latest.
Velez places his subjects in front of the lens as they scroll through their preferred apps. This could become dull, however, Velez inventively places the reflection of the apps screen on the lens. This technique creates audience engagement. As we see what and who they’re reacting too, we feel we are ‘searching’ with them. He also transitions between his subjects with footage of lovers around the City. These shots visualize what his subjects are looking for: connection that can make the loneliest of times beautiful.
Refreshingly, these charming subjects are diverse in their ages, races, genders, and sexual preferences. They also come from a multitude of different dating histories. Some have had success in online dating, while others have had negative experiences. Some people are new to dating, while other are divorcees. A variety of dating apps are also highlighted: Grindr, match.com, Bumble, OK Cupid and more. As Velez asks what the subjects are searching for, we see a range of answers from looking for “the one” to simply “the one for right now”.
Even Velez joins in on the online dating world. We watch as he makes a profile and, with the help of his mom, swipes left or right. We wish we could have explored more of his journey and a number of his other subjects. Throughout the many interviews, there does become a trend. They all believe online dating is part of modern times, and particularly part of life in busy New York City. But it’s looked at as a starting point and only when spending time in person can a relationship grow.
Overall, Searchers is a look at one of the loneliest times in modern history, and the need for human connection. Watching as this diverse and delightful group of New Yorkers navigate the pandemic dating world reminds us of our universal want: love.
Searchers screens at Sundance:
Live Premiere: January 30 at 9 PM (EST) On-Demand (Available for 24hrs): February 1 at 10AM (EST