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Fund This Film: An Aaron Swartz Documentary From the Director of ‘We Are Legion’

By  · Published on May 4th, 2013

One of the best documentaries of last year is We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, a film that looks at the history of Internet activists/hackers/pranksters Anonymous while remarkably tying together stuff like LOLCats and the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement (stream it now via Amazon or download from iTunes). Now that doc’s director, Brian Knappenberger, is taking on another web-based story, which will show how the movie WarGames led to the suicide of one of the 21st century’s greatest geniuses.

Not that it will put any blame on a 1982 movie starring Matthew Broderick nor focus on that particular chain of events. The Internet’s Own Boy will tell the short life story of computer programmer Aaron Swartz, one of the minds behind numerous Internet-related projects including RSS (at age 14!), Reddit, Markdown, Watchdog.net, and Creative Commons and an activist against SOPA and for WikiLeaks. Sadly, he hung himself in January of this year (at age 26), following two years of being hit with felony charges stemming from illegally accessing and downloading material from the online journal database JSTOR.

The Internet’s Own Boy is currently raising money through Kickstarter, and after a week and a half Knappenberger is already 97% funded based on its initial goal of $75,000 (less than half the final expected budget of $175,000). With 19 days to go, it’s sure to get the remaining $2800 without need of me writing about it, but this is one of the rare crowdfunding projects where I really, really want to see the end result. Not only is it about a subject that I’m interested in learning more about (I’m not enough of a computer geek that I even knew of Swartz before his death) but it’s by a proven filmmaker who I can trust based on his prior work (and the fact that he’s again got The Submarines’ John Dragonetti doing the music). I think that’s a pretty important combination when looking at stuff worthy of our pledges.

It also helps that we can see a good deal of the footage shot so far via the campaign video below, and that this footage looks very well done:

In the spirit of Swartz’s work, the film will wind up available digitally through Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. That will include the raw footage of full interviews shot for the documentary, which will be uploaded to the Internet Archive (which benefited from his genius and which features a memorial collection of his emails, codes and photos). Backers of at least $15 will be able to watch the completed film early, with an estimated access date of January 2014 – hopefully this timing means The Internet’s Own Boy will be shown at Slamdance (where We Are Legion debuted) if not Sundance.

Keep in mind that while this project has nearly reached its first round goal, it is ultimately looking for more than twice as much, so this is one of those Kickstarter campaigns that can certainly go way over.

Do you want to see this film? Enough to help fund it?

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.