Hot Docs 2014 Review: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz
It isn’t the best film at Hot Docs this year (it comes close), but The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is deservedly top-billed. Both intimate and global in scope, comprehensive in its analysis and dissection, and with issues that are ever important to the world today, it’s not only a compelling story, but a timely and important one.
Aaron Swartz, prodigy, campaigner for a free Internet, political activist, hacker, sleuth, and by all accounts genuine and idealistic, committed suicide on January 11, 2013 amid stress and pressure from an ongoing and by all accounts unnecessary FBI investigation.
Recounting Aaron’s childhood, in which he was coding programs at a staggering young age and consulting with companies as a teenager, to his rise as Internet hero and rigorous campaigner for freedom of information, Brian Knappenberger jam-packs a potent film.
Balancing the more personal struggles of Aaron with the political, social, and technological aspects of his work is tricky, but for the most part well-executed. Neither governmental law nor the technical jargon feel arcane, and the more absurd moments of Aaron’s prosecution would be hysterical if it weren’t first heartbreaking.
It does however at times yank at the heartstrings when a simple tug will do; we see video of Aaron as a child at both the beginning and the end, and the tragedy is well enough felt that perhaps the camera holds too long on those mourning.
Still, it’s a powerful, coherent, and relevant story that needs to be watched.