Kim Dotcom documentary at NZIFF

26 July 2017
Kim Dotcom
Kim Dotcom photographed by Mathias Ortmann

Professor Annie Goldson's documentary about Kim Dotcom will screen at the New Zealand International Film Festival, beginning with Auckland on July 29, 31 and August 6.

Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web has already screened at the South by SouthWest Festival in Austin, Texas. Afterwards Rolling Stone writer David Fear wrote: "Whether you think he is a hero or a heel, you’re bound to leave the film with your preconceptions shattered."

The film centres on the tech entrepreneur, tracing his origins as a young hacker in Germany, through his move to Hong Kong, where he founded his 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.

"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 the story and a discussion driven by a range of international commentators, including Professor Laurence Lessig (Harvard), founder of Creative Commons and ‘Anonymous scholar’ Professor Gabriella Coleman (McGill), journalists Glenn Greenwald, Robert Levine and David Fisher, founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales and musicians Moby and Smudo. 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 former 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 have produced a rich educational site, Caught in the Web (The Hub) which was funded by the Faculty Research Development Fund in 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 in Screen Production graduates Kate Stevenson and Chris White of DotDot designed the innovative web-like site which links to an online book of transcribed interviews, for which Annie has written an introduction, mini-documentaries edited from outtake sequences, excerpts of filmed interviews and more. The Hub will function as an outreach tool but also provide a platform for discussion and debate.

Recently appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society, Annie (ONZM) is the writer and director, co-producing the film alongside the producer, German-born Auckland-based Alex Behse, whose other credits include Poi E: The Story of our Song and Ever the Land.

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