Hot Docs 2021: Unmasking ‘The Face of Anonymous’

I’m here to report that I’ve seen the face of Anonymous. And well, he’s a bit much.

The man in question, noteworthy “hacktivist” Christopher Doyon (aka Commander X), sits front-and-centre of Gary Lang’s The Face of Anonymous – a documentary exposing the people behind the infamous online collective.

Retracing Doyon’s journey as a young protester, computer enthusiast, and five years spent incarcerated, the notion of his passions coalescing didn’t click until he unearthed troubling news. In the wake of Anonymous infiltrating an online epilepsy forum with malicious intent in 2000, Doyon was left fighting mad. Vengeful, really.

Present-day Christopher Doyon (aka Commander X)

With a fervent blueprint to take out the hacker group, Doyon would inexplicably change his mind. Seems that Anonymous, all so powerful online, was in fact a leaderless club of males who offered him a sense of place and purpose. From there on out, Doyon’s alter-ego, Commander X, was born.

Inciting a tsunami of online vigilantism, Anonymous would famously target the likes of the Church of Scientology, PayPal, and Middle Eastern dictators amid growing support from all corners of the globe.

Interestingly enough, in examining the group’s cultural impact, The Face of Anonymous does a good job in covering the genesis of their rise and how it spilled onto the streets. From debunking the origins of Anonymous’s iconic “Guy Fawkes” mask to their hand in the development of WikiLeaks, director Lang is also wise to include key figures such as Barrett Brown and Gregg Housh to counterpoint Doyon’s recollections.

Barrett Brown being interviewed in ‘The Face of Anonymous’

As a document of the early 21st century’s digital history, The Face of Anonymous succeeds. However, as a portrait of a fugitive, it grows weary.

Chronicling Christopher Doyon’s lifelong nomadic existence, the film follows his escape to Canada by way of the backwoods bush, and later, as an asylum seeker in Mexico. Lang employs archival footage intermittently, presenting Commander X as a once-vital and embattled Anonymous spokesman, now contrasted with expletive-riddled interviews of him as an elderly man. A little of Doyon goes a long and exasperating way.

Then again, that’s probably the point of The Face of Anonymous. Having once harnessed the power to bring political figures down, present-day Doyon has very little to show, just lots to yell, now relying on the kindness of strangers to get by. Life is a funny thing, though. One gets the sense he doesn’t regret a single minute of it.


Myles Herod

Myles Herod

Traveller, image maker, pop-culture seeker, storyteller, a guy you want around when things go south. Tastes range from Kubrick to Krautrock, Wu-Tang to Wiseau. Currently resides in Toronto, Canada.
Myles Herod
Myles Herod

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