Director: Brian Knappenberger
Duration: 105 min (US)
In an ideal world, the role of a documentary is to take an important subject and to let the mechanics of filmmaking compliment it and provide an aid for comprehension. Brian Knappenberger has taken aim and scored in that regard with his feature on the life of Aaron Swartz.
For the uninitiated and the unaware, the story of Aaron Swartz will incur a welter of differing emotions. A trace is outlined of a socially awkward programming prodigy growing into his skin and finding his principles playing trail to his talent. Once he fixed on his motivating objective, however, he blazed a path from which we should all hope is still in the initial stages of bloom. Sadly, for Swartz himself, he was unable to see it out. He took his own life at the age of 26.
This is a tale of David v Goliath that resulted in a Cain and Abel-like crime. Outrage is induced that the democratically elected gatekeepers – those who represent us for the promotion of fairness, equity and freedom – can prove to cover knowledge and lash out at truth seeking violators like a cornered beast. In turn, they provide ample evidence that the cuddly puppy dog is actually a snarling wolf, foaming at the mouth with incandescent rage gladly tearing at the flesh of its owner, without regard for the victim being the one who feeds it. This may not be news, but it is presented compellingly in this documentary.
The film’s execution never less than engages. The conventional approach of talking head testimony is paired with graphics and sympathetic shots to track the events. Music underscores in an acceptable fashion, never straying too far from emotional button pressing but certainly not in an obtrusive manner or one that might spur accusation of shameless melodrama. This is documentary filmmaking that plays like a non-fiction companion piece to Linklater’s lauded Boyhood (2014).
All told, Knappenberger has stitched together a tragic 5 star documentary and a must-see. The Internet’s Own Boy is a mirror-image companion of the subject matter; a marriage of masterful efficiency, noble intention and daring. Essential.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz is in cinemas from 29th August 2014.
See the trailer here: