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7 Great Documentaries About Life on the Internet

7 Great Documentaries About Life on the Internet

[Editor’s Note: This post is presented in partnership with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand in support of Indie Film Month. Today’s pick, “A Brave Heart,” is available now On Demand. Need help finding a movie to watch? Let TWC find the best fit for your mood here.] 

READ MORE: Review: ‘A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story’ Is An Uplifting, Anti-Bullying Documentary

“Catfish” (2010)

Initially considered something of a curiosity when it was first whispered about, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s documentary about lying and loving on the Internet ended up taking the Sundance Film Festival by storm, with various audiences and critics alike passionately debating its veracity. While we may never know who exactly was the duper and the dupee in the complex web of emotions and fake Facebook profiles (in its own parlance, who exactly was being catfished here?), the film spawned both a TV show and a handy bit of slang, along with an often uncomfortable look at the way people project their anxieties and desires onto even their most highly curated web presences.

“Love Child” (2004)

HBO has quite the powerful resume when it comes to documentaries, and the disturbing and revealing “Love Child” is certainly no exception. Directed by Valerie Veatch, the film tells the story of a South Korean couple whose baby died of malnutrition while they were immersed in an online fantasy video game. Using the tragedy as a launch pad, the doc provides startling realizations into our relationship with the web and and the resulting trial that forced the law to reconcile with Internet addiction for the very first time. Veatch juxtaposes talking head interviews with the video game the couple was playing at the time of their child’s death, and the effect is a haunting collision of realities both real and artificial.

“Craigslist Joe” (2012)

Most documentaries and films about the Internet warn of its dangers, but Joseph Garner’s “Craigslist Joe” is the rare, heartwarming exception. Garner was an assistant director on “The Hangover,” and following the film’s success, he embarked on a month-long odyssey across the United States, relying only on Craigslist to help him survive. The plan brought him in contact with a host of colorful characters, and the director slowly paints a complex, diverse and affectionate portrait of the American way of life as a result. By the time Garner is finishing up his travels and calling his time on the road “inspiring,” he couldn’t be more spot on. In an age full of anti-Internet sentiments, “Craigslist Joe” reminds us of the benefits of technological connection.

“The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” (2014)

Aaron Swartz was only 26 years old when he decided to take his own life, but in the years before his tragic death, he significantly changed and refined the limits of what the Internet can do. Not only did the boy genius help develop internet protocol like RSS, but he also helped in creating publishing formats such as Markdown and co-founded Reddit. The Internet would not be what it is without him, and filmmaker Brian Knappenberger gives the late tech wonder a proper eulogy in this biographical documentary that also explores the complex legal investigation that led to his eventual suicide.  

“We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists” (2012)

Another documentary from Brian Knappenberger that explores the relationship between the internet and the law, “We Are Legion” is an informative and thrilling look at the “hacktivist” collective Anonymous. Documenting their rise from the message boards of 4chan to a global organization of interoconnected hackers, the movie explores their controversial call to arms — including cyber attacks they’ve conducted on foreign governments — and their own personal mantras of motivating anytime personal privacy and internet freedom is jeopardized. Ultimately, the film is a radical look at the function and capabilities of discourse and protest in the digital age.

“We Live in Public” (2009)

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Ondi Timoner’s mesmerizing “We Live in Public” centers around Internet pioneer Josh Harris. In late 1993, Harris founded Pseudo.com, which many consider to be the first online television network in which users could access live audio and video webcams from across the internet. Later, Harris would create the bizarre and troubling “Quiet: We Live in Public” art project, which placed around 100 artists in a “digital hotel” where each room had cameras capturing their every movements. In chronicling both the website and the experiment, Timoner paints Harris as both a creator of online connectivity and a destroyer of the private sphere. You’ll never look at the Internet the same way again.

“Terms and Conditions May Apply” (2013)

What Cullen Hoback’s “Terms and Conditions May Apply” may lack in drama (there’s no rebel hackers or tragic deaths) it sure makes up for in being a highly personal look at the way Internet companies go about decieving their “loyal customers” on a daily basis. We’ve all heard the titular phrase, and many of us seem numb to it at this point, but the documentary provides a rather infuriating look at the deceptive meaning of the words and the way sites like Google, Facebook and many more manipulate language in policy statements to destroy user privacy and steal information. Watch it once and you’ll think twice about hitting “I Agree.”

Indiewire has partnered with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand for September’s Indie Film Month. Enjoy exceptionally creative and uniquely entertaining new Indie releases (“Love & Mercy,” “The Overnight,” “Time Out of Mind,” “Cop Car” and more) all month long on Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand. Go HERE daily for movie reviews, interviews, and exclusive footage of the suggested TWC movie of the day and catch the best Indie titles on TWC Movies On Demand.

READ MORE: Cinedigm Will Release ‘A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story’ on September 25

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