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

Aaron Swartz in 2012 protesting against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

Essential viewing for anyone interested in what freedom of information means in the digital age, this passionate, fascinating, unapologetically partial but fair documentary celebrates Aaron Swartz, a programming-genius-turned-hacktivist, whose work and campaigning reshaped the internet, copyright law and activism itself.

Swartz became something of a martyr to the cause of information freedom after his suicide in 2013 while facing a possible 35 years in prison for, effectively, downloading academic papers with the intention of making them more accessible to everyone.

Director Brian Knappenberger deftly elucidates the technical and legal aspects of the case, as well as Swartz's contributions to defeating the Stop Online Piracy Act and other significant achievements, such as developing the web feed format RSS and cofounding Reddit.

Illustrated by home-video material, news footage and testimony from friends and family, the film builds up a portrait of a brilliant, driven, complex young man who's likely to be an iconic figure in the future, a sort of digital-age Che Guevara. One star detracted for the invasive, button-pushing soundtrack.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Leslie Felperin, for The Guardian on Thursday 28th August 2014 23.00 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010