Director Brian Knappenberger who recently filmed the documentary about online activist organization Anonymous entitled “We the Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists”, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to create a documentary about late internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Knappenberger has set the funding goal at $75,000 and in just a day since the project was launched, it has amassed more than half of the target, raising over $39,000. Given the huge following Swartz has amongst the general internet public and his many high profile supporters, I think it’s safe to say that there are a lot of people who want to see this film made, and Knappenberger will undoubtedly reach his target!
Knappenberger was at the Social Computing Symposium conference at New York University when the news of Aaron’s suicide filtered through. As the word got around the campus that the young internet activist had taken his own life, Knappenberger realized he was in the midst of many people who knew him well, like Gabriella Coleman and Clay Shirky among others and they were visibly shaken by the news.
In an interview with Wired, Knappenberger said; “I felt this sense of loss as we started talking about him and telling stories…I tend to always travel with a camera of some sort, so I just started talking to people.”
Knappenberger’s documentary is currently titled “The Internet’s Own Boy” and it will look back over the life of Swartz as a programmer, an activist, the culture he helped to create and how he became a champion of the open access cause. It will examine how this young, talented individual was integral in the fight against SOPA and PIPA, his involvement in Demand Progress, the founding of Reddit and his efforts for Creative Commons. It will also look into the prosecution Swartz was facing and explore details of his controversial case which many believe represented a broken justice system.
Knappenberger said, “I feel a real responsibility – his story has touched so many people that I feel like I really want to this justice…It’s touched people that didn’t really know him all over the world so, [the film] is about exploring why that is, why people knew about him and why he inspires people. … It’s not a memorial of him, either. It’s an investigative approach into what happened and who he was.”
Knappenberger’s film will include interviews with Swartz’ family and friends many of who have been outspoken since his tragic death in January and he also plans on speaking with people from MIT, which has been conducting a review of the JSTOR case since Swartz’ suicide.
To hold true to Swartz’ legacy, Knappenberger plans to release the documentary under a Creative Commons license. The Kickstarter page states, “Aaron gave a lot of his time and energy to Creative Commons. We also hope to find other outlets as well as live screenings, a small theatrical run and bringing it to college campuses and libraries. We think this is the best way to share this powerful story!”
After the documentary is released, Knappenberger also plans to release all of the raw interview footage and post it to the Internet Archive in San Francisco, also under a Creative Commons license.
Though Swartz’ story is about internet activism, like his film about Anonymous, Knappenberger says that it is very different because his identity was well known and he strived to work with the system rather than outside of it.
Knappenberger hopes to have the documentary about Swartz completed by the end of 2013. Visit the Kickstarter page for more details or to make a pledge.