Longtime WTTW fans may remember that back in 1987, our airwaves were hijacked by an unknown TV “pirate” who took over our signal during the “Doctor Who” show — it’s known as the Max Headroom signal hijacking.
Now nearly 34 years later, it’s inspired a new film playing Thursday at the Chicago International Film Festival called “Broadcast Signal Intrusion.” The film will be available to watch in theaters and stream on Oct. 22.
In the film, video archivist James, played by Harry Shum Jr., stumbles upon tapes — inspired by the incident — that he believes might be connected to his wife’s death. The discovery sends him down a proverbial rabbit hole.
“You look at those intrusions it’s eerie, but also in some ways you kind of laugh at it because it’s unsettling and you don’t know how to feel about it,” Shum said of decision to take on the project. “While just going on this fun ride where you’re constantly trying to figure out if he’s going to get closer to the truth.”
Shum prepared for the role by falling down a rabbit hole of forums and fan theories about the original incidents.
“It’s fascinating that this left such an impression on people, and I think it’s really why—why was this done and was there a hidden meaning or hidden agenda,” Shum said.
Despite efforts from eager researchers and even a Federal Communications Commission investigation, whoever was behind the incident has not been discovered.