Today’s look at Sundance 2014’s US Documentary Competition wraps up: Brian Knappenberger’s THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ, about the life and tragic early death of the Internet wunderkind and information activist.
Sundance Program Description:
As a teenager, Aaron Swartz was a computer-programming prodigy with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. After emerging as a pioneer of Internet activism, education, and politics, he was indicted on multiple federal charges in 2011 and 2012, setting off a complex chain of events that left the Internet community reeling. Shortly thereafter, at the age of 26, Swartz was found dead of an apparent suicide in his Brooklyn apartment. His family, friends, and supporters immediately blamed the prosecutors of the case, who aimed to put him in jail for 35 years and brand him a convicted felon for life. Swartz was persecuted for the very rights and freedoms for which he stood, and that ultimately broke him.
Weaving together home video footage and anecdotal interviews from his closest confidants, Brian Knappenberger creates a dynamic portrait of a precocious boy who grew up to lead the Internet community into a new age of data sharing and free speech.
This project brings Knappenberger back to Park City for the second time – his previous documentary WE ARE LEGION: THE STORY OF THE HACKTIVISTS made its debut at Slamdance last year. His other past films include several programs for television, such as executive producing the doc series Bloomberg Game Changers and work for Sundance Channel, Discovery, National Geographic, PBS, and the Travel Channel.
Why You Should Watch:
A spiritual sequel to his previous doc, a provocative look at the hacker collective Anonymous, Knappenberger’s new film continues his inquiry of society’s relationship to technology and information access. As much a story about Swartz and his digital native generation’s affinity to information as it is about the old guard’s greed and fear prompting the placing of barriers to the free flow of ideas, Knappenberger’s well-constructed film functions as both an affecting portrait of a brilliant mind cut short and a catalyst to inspire engagement on the issues that meant the most to him, perhaps most dramatically shown here in Swartz’s instrumental leadership against SOPA. In an era of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, his prosecution – and persecution – won’t be the last.
For more information, join the mailing list on the film’s in-progress website and watch Knappenberger’s Meet the Artist Sundance video profile. Also check out his Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2014 Twitter list.