Hot Docs 2014: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz Review

The Internet's Own Boy - Hot Docs 2014

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

Special Presentation/Opening Night Gala/Scotiabank Big Ideas

A major disappointment not only for the opening night film, but also for filmmaker Brian Knappenberger, whose previous We Are Legion was one of the festival’s biggest surprises a couple of years ago.

Knappenberger returns to chronicling internet culture with this look at Aaron Swartz: a brilliant young man who as a teen helped develop RSS, the co-founded Reddit, and became one of the foremost activists to speak out against SOPA. An “alpha nerd” with an admittedly large ego, Swartz became the target of numerous government investigations that tragically led to his suicide at only 26.


It’s an admittedly tragic story of someone who really did want to change the world for the better, but after too many interview subjects say variations of “He never did anything wrong!” or “He never hurt anyone!” the film feels like its spinning its wheels unnecessarily. An avalanche worth of voiceover exposition and sometimes ham-fisted, overwrought music cues also kill any momentum the human elements of the story might have. It feels like at any moment the narrator will say “Dateline NBC will return after these messages.”

There’s a great story in here and Knappenberger has clearly done his research, but there’s also a better movie waiting to get out.


Thursday, April 24th, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 10:00pm (OPENING NIGHT GALA)


Friday, April 25th, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 2:00pm

Wednesday, April 30th, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 6:30pm (SCOTIABANK BIG IDEAS SCREENING with Cory Doctorow, Gabriella Coleman and Lawrence Lessig) (RUSH ONLY)