Hot Docs 2015 Review: Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi

Neal Broffman presents us with a documentary that is both a testament to the love of one family and a stark warning against the mob mentality of social media.

One month before the Boston Marathon bombings, an intelligent and sensitive young man named Sunil Tripathi disappeared from his apartment. Sunil was an undergraduate at Brown University and had been battling severe depression.

His family begin the documentary by sharing their memories of “Sunny” and how they struggled to help him as he descended into depression. We see his childhood room in the family home still intact. The colourful décor and trinkets a testament to the happy childhood he shared with his two siblings.

Following FBI released photos of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, Sunil is misidentified by an old classmate using Reddit. It doesn’t take long for this to explode across social media and bleed over into mainstream media. The most disturbing parts of the film are the actual voicemails left for members of the Tripathi family by frenzied journalists.

Screen grabs of vicious Twitter messages confirm that the misidentification was based upon nothing more than cultural ignorance and ingrained racism. The authors not seeming to know or care that Sunil was a Hindu. Essentially having brown skin, a “foreign” name and disappearing one month prior were enough to condemn him.

While the rest of the world has moved on, the Tripathi family have to live with the fact that Sunil’s name will forever be linked with the Boston Marathon bombings.

My tastes have changed over the years but I'm still that three year-old playing Raiders of the Lost Ark over and over and that awkward 15 year-old seeing her first Wes Anderson film by accident and that angsty 18 year old watching Harold and Maude.

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