Aaron Swartz Movie, The Internet's Own Boy, Screens At Hot Docs Toronto

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AARON SWARTZ ZOE LOFGREN
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"You know, it's easy sometimes to feel like you're powerless. Like when you come out in the streets and you march and you yell and nobody hears you. But I'm here to tell you today, you are powerful."

Potent words from a man who proved, perhaps, too much so for some people's comfort.

Prodigy, visionary, revolutionary — Aaron Swartz etched his name in the annals of the online age.

He was a key cog in the inception of Reddit. He battled against internet censorship. He inspired an online nation.

And on Jan.11, not long after being indicted on 13 counts of computer crimes, the 26-year-old took his own life.

According to Brian Knappenberger, whose documentary on Swartz, 'The Internet's Own Boy,' screens this month at Toronto's Hot Docs film festival, the two are tragically related.

"Certainly there were many factors, but this two-year legal nightmare that he went through — you can't ignore that," Knappenberger says in the film. "He was exhausted financially and emotionally. He killed himself within a few days of his initial arrest. I don't think that's a coincidence, exactly."

At just over two minutes, the trailer manages to pack an emotional uppercut, careening from a shy computer whiz — helped pioneer the development of internet protocol RSS at age 14 — to a civil rights lion.

And then a voice offers this despairing testimonial:

"He was the internet's own boy.. and the old world killed him."

Follow Christian Cotroneo on Twitter

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