Internet’s Own Boy: A powerful moment
I didn’t know who Aaron Schwartz was before I watched the extraordinary film “The Internet’s Own Boy”. However, by the end of the screening, I really wished I had.
For those who don’t know, Aaron Schwartz was a young internet genius, known for being a founding member of reddit, a co-writer of RSS, and working with Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, to develop information sharing standards. He was also known for his political activism for the freedom of information, notably with his work against SOPA and PIPA. After downloading academic journals from JSTOR on MIT campus, he was arrested and charged by federal prosecutors, facing 38 years of prison and $1 million in fines. Two years later after being denied a plea bargain for the second time, he was found dead in his New York apartment. He committed suicide.
The film followed Schwartz’s life from childhood when he first fell in love with computers and the internet to the drama that took place at the end of his life. Interviews not only included members of the internet community and friends or colleagues of Aaron, but director Brian Knappenberger also used interviews and personal video from his family.
Due to their involvement, the Schwartz family ended up attending the Sundance Film Festival for the premiere of the film, something most of the audiences didn’t realize. So when Knappenberger introduced Aaron’s father and two brothers at the end of the screening for questions, most of the audience was shocked.
I watched in awe and pride as the family descended the stairs to the front of the screen, greeted to an audience standing to their feet. A standing ovation was given to them for several minutes, the sound of echoing throughout the small theater and the men didn’t seem to know what how to react.
This moment touched me. These weren’t one of the many celebrities that explored the chilly streets of Park City. These were just normal people with an extraordinary son. They didn’t expect a standing ovation or anything, they just wanted to honor Aaron. Despite all of the wonderful moments that I experienced at Sundance, this moment was, by far, the most powerful moment at the Sundance Film Festival.