The Internet’s Own Boy Review

The Internet's Own Boy

Brian Knappenberger’s latest documentary, The Internet’s Own Boy, is an utterly moving narrative about the life, mind and tragic end of boy-genius Aaron Swartz.

Interviews with Swartz’s family intermingled with home-video footage from his childhood demonstrate Aaron’s striking intelligence and astonishing command of computers from an early age.

In his teen years, he stunned industry professionals with his capability and profound insight, and was invited to participate in high-profile computing conferences.

Heavily influenced by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the internet, he saw great potential for the education and empowerment of people around the globe through sharing technology.

He wanted to make public information truly public.

He wanted to share Western research and information with underfunded universities and students around the world.

But no. God forbid.

There’s no profit in openly shared information, and the Establishment was not best pleased by the noises Aaron was making.

His vision was ultimately his undoing.

Interviews with Aaron’s contemporaries and colleagues explore his achievements and successes, and his decline as he began to attract the attention of the FBI through his idealistic pursuits.

He faced a potential prison sentence of 30 years.

One day, he could take the pressure no longer.

Despite the weighty topic and the tangible pain of the loss of this genuine-hearted genius and visionary, Knappenberger succeeds in keeping a light tone to the narrative.

For the most part it is a celebration of Aaron’s life, focusing on his achievements and on the wonderful things his contemporaries remember about him, rather than on the tragedy of his death.

That’s not to say you won’t leave the cinema feeling heartbroken.

This writer – usually stoic and at times accused of being stone-hearted – was openly weeping. Loudly, too.

Stronger than the heartbreak, though, is the sense of frustration at the arbitrary rigidity and the vanity of the Establishment.

And frustration – irritating though it is – is a vital source of motivation, of galvanisation, and of change for the better.

Thus, Knappenberger has created a documentary which is not only about Aaron Swartz but also in homage to him: this is a documentary which will move people around the globe to question, to challenge, and to struggle for better – just as Aaron would have done.

The Internet’s Own Boy is not to be missed.

Stephanie Josine

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August 2014
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