The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz Screen 4 articles

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


The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz Poster
  • Filled with interviews, many of them ardent testimonials about Mr. Swartz’s brilliance, the movie is appealing primarily as a personal portrait. But the frustratingly, at times breathlessly hagiographic narration and reductive analysis — it draws a parallel between Mr. Swartz’s activism and that of Egyptians who overthrew their government — ends up flattening a complex story about the promise of freedom and its reality.

  • It may be that Swartz, the programmer and activist who helped develop RSS at the age of 14, led the fight against SOPA in 2011, and in between, helped found Reddit and launched dozens of campaigns for freedom of information and progressive causes, is too endlessly fascinating as a subject for 104 minutes to do his story justice. Perhaps director Brian Knappenberger moved a bit too quickly to get this story out.

  • Knappenberger attempts to balance a portrait of a young man who was prodigious, stubborn, and deeply principled with an examination of the far-reaching issues his work raised. But the hasty turnaround (Swartz died in January 2013) and certain mildly unethical interactions (badgering Swartz’s ex-girlfriend over things she said to prosecutors that strengthened their case against him; lingering on his sobbing mother as she says she couldn’t go on being filmed) do the film a disservice.

  • “The Internet’s Own Boy” was the last movie I saw at Sundance this year and might have the biggest social impact of anything in the festival. It isn’t great cinema, but it’s capable and gripping advocacy filmmaking that took less than a year, start to finish, and will introduce a much wider audience to the issues behind the life and death of Aaron Swartz.

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