SXSW Film Review: 'The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz'

Lamenting a death by celebrating a life

Young Aaron Swartz shined a light into darkness, and then entered it.

Following Friday night's premiere, director/producer/screenwriter Brian Knappenberger described this film as “another part of the same story” of his 2012 We Are Legion on the hacktivist movement, although recounting “a darker time.” The story of Aaron Swartz, the heroic free-Internet activist who committed suicide in 2013 after two years under extreme pressure from an overreaching and absurd federal “computer fraud” prosecution, is certainly somber, because we know its outcome. But the film is also an engrossing, illuminating celebration of Swartz’s life, and his work helping to invent and defend the astonishing potential of the World Wide Web.

Via a broad range of interviews and available footage – including even family home movies – Knappenberger recounts Swartz’s life as a precocious child, a young computer prodigy, and finally a brilliant thinker and activist who both understood what knowledge dissemination could do for social progress and knew what tools could help us get there. Building apps and websites, advancing networks, innovating exchanges, he seems always out-front of the next wave. Even under indictment, he helped enflame the seemingly impossible SOPA political victory. The tragedy of his death does not obscure the extraordinary vitality of his life, vividly told here.

See "About a Boy" for our interview with Knappenberger.


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


Festival Favorites
Saturday, March 8, 1:45pm, Alamo Village
Tuesday, March 11, 4:15pm, Vimeo
Saturday, March 15, 4:30pm, Vimeo

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
Sound and Vision: The Meow Wolf/Spatial Connection
Sound and Vision: The Meow Wolf/Spatial Connection
Did SXSW give a preview of the technology behind the next portal?

Richard Whittaker, April 14, 2022

MSNBC Gets Behind the Story of <i>Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets</i>
MSNBC Gets Behind the Story of Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets
New documentary talks to the people who bought Gamestop shares

Ikram Mohamed, April 8, 2022

More by Michael King
How the Filibuster Has Already Undermined Democracy
How the Filibuster Has Already Undermined Democracy
The recent attacks on reproductive rights reveal another reason to let the filibuster burn

May 6, 2022

SXSW Film Review: <i>Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story</i>
Film Review: Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story
Celebrating 50 years of Big Easy music and culture

March 17, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW Film 2014, SXSW 2014, Aaron Swartz, privacy, SOPA, piracy, Brian Knappenberger, documentary, review, The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle