Dotcom documentary to screen at SXSW

06 March 2017
Kim Dotcom reenacts the police raid on his Coatesville mansion at the launch of Mega. Photo by Nigel Marple.
Kim Dotcom reenacts the police raid on his Coatesville mansion at the launch of Mega. Photo by Nigel Marple.

Professor Annie Goldson's new documentary about Kim Dotcom will premiere at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas on Monday 13 March.

Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web is one of 12 documentaries that will screen in the Documentary Spotlight section of the festival.

The film traces Dotcom's origins as a young hacker in Germany, through his move to Hong Kong, where he founded the file-sharing site Megaupload, to his arrival in New Zealand in 2010 and his ongoing legal battles with the United States government and the entertainment industry.

Telling Dotcom's story naturally led to a conversation about some of the biggest questions of the digital age, says Annie, a Professor in Media and Communication.

"As a character Kim Dotcom has a rollicking backstory, but as important as the narrative is the analysis of the issues underlying the 'Dotcom case': piracy and file sharing, privacy and surveillance and sovereignty."

The film alternates between Dotcom's story and a discussion driven by a range of international commentators, including Professor Laurence Lessig of Harvard University; founder of Creative Commons and Anonymous scholar Professor Gabriella Coleman of McGill University, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Robert Levine and David Fisher; founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales; and musicians Moby and Smudo.

Annie wrote, directed and co-produced the film alongside producer Alex Behse, whose other credits include Poi E: The Story of our Song and Ever the Land.

In the making of the film, Annie interviewed over 70 subjects in the US, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

"Dotcom is seen by some as a commercial genius, like many entrepreneurs pushing the envelope and working in the 'grey zone' — a kind of disruptive innovator. Others believe he is a simple thief, acquiring huge personal wealth off the back of the labour of others."

In January 2012, 70 heavily armed New Zealand police stormed Dotcom's sprawling Coatesville mansion, which he was sharing with his then wife Mona and their five young children.

On FBI orders, Dotcom and his three coders, who were alleged co-conspirators, were arrested on a range of serious charges relating to alleged copyright infringement by Megaupload.

A long legal saga ensued and although recently the men were found eligible for extradition, they are continuing their fight and have appealed to a higher court.

The production team were eventually able to negotiate access to Dotcom's personal archive as well as conducting an eight-hour interview with the man himself.

Given the wealth of the material filmed, the team will also release a rich educational website, which was funded by a Faculty Research Development Fund from the Faculty of Arts.

"The University of Auckland has provided invaluable support, not just allowing me to work hard on the film as part of my research, but also assisting us in developing an interactive website that we will use to host a range of materials that we just couldn't fit into the film," Annie says.

Master of Arts graduate in Screen Production Kate Stevenson and Master of Creative and Performing arts graduate Chris White of DotDot designed the innovative web-like site that links to transcribed interviews, for which Annie has written an introduction, edited outtake sequences, excerpts of filmed interviews and more.

The site will function as an outreach tool but also provide a platform for discussion and debate.

Find out more about studying Screen Production