You will see a lot of documentaries this year and you will struggle to choose ones that offer a little more than a moralising commentary on the modern world. You will want to see something that shows you facts, but in a touching and identifiable manner deprived of over-sentimentality and manipulation. You will want to watch a story of a man who was just like us and yet managed to change the whole world. And you won’t have to search any further from today, because here it is: Internet’s Own Boy.
I went to the screening of Internet’s Own Boy reading some sort of minimalistic blurb from Google’s first page where the only information I got was that Aaron Swartz was the co-creator of Reddit. I know Reddit, I thought. I LIKE Reddit. But what is there to say much about it and especially one and not the only of its creators? Well, thank God I wasn’t put off by te Google’s blurb because Internet’s Own Boy is definitely not a film abour Reddit. Unless of course we are talking about what Reddit stands for. Not literally, but ideologically. So really (in the proper blurb written by the people who actually cared to promote what the film is really about):
“The story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz; from Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two year legal battle with the Federal government. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26.”
Brian Knappenberger cares. Knappenberger cares to make a film that will make its audience care. I’ll be honest with you, I am not that familiar with the director’s filmography to judge his personal involvement in the political activism around the internet, but he definitely did his research with love and passion that is extremely contagouos. Internet’s Own Boy does tell the story of Aaron Swartz from the moments of when we see him as a kid teaching his brothers some basic maths to the moment where he manages to demolish SOPA- yeah, you know, the cenzorship of the internet we learned too late about. But Internet’s Own Boy is really about power. Aaron Swartz was just our opportunity to realise that we, too can have the power.
I’m not sure how much information I will now serve you because it comes from what I heard from him and her and other people in my life that were in smaller or larger form involved and interested in the politics of the internet. Apparently the guy who created it wanted it to become a free medium for every human being. We know where that went. And some of us, more interested in the topic might realise that freedom doesn’t necessarily comes hand in hand with the internet.
Yes, there is an amazing part, the part that Aaron Swartz used and promoted- the internet used to share information for free between its users, the chance to gain new knowledge, meet new people, develop ourselves and our society. And there’s also the darker side- the internet controlled by the government, cenzored internet, internet owned by one man. Internet’s Own Boy focuses on dicussing the argument for making internet people’s medium again, it inspires to gain knowledge that would enable us people to use it as a way to promote social activism. And yes, I hope you can see it in my words already- Internet’s Own Boy is a very inspiring movie.
It makes you want to get into coding and start another Wikipedia. It makes you want to connect to other people and together build a website where knowledge gained by humanity throughout ages would be free. It makes you want to believe that we can form a better future for the next generation, generation which hopefully would feel more in control of this medium. And it makes you feel like you can change the world by the age of 26, like Aaron did.
It also makes you sad. Aaron’s death is real and after watching his philantropic work succeed, it is extremely painful for us all. Internet’s Own Boy is an important film that comes out at exactly the right time. Let’s use it for something more than just a passive admiration of wonderful editing, great directing and a heart-touching story. Allow it to inspire us and let’s learn the lesson, not moralising but actually true, that it gives us.