Review: ‘Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web’

Hot Docs 2017

4 mins read

Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web
(New Zealand, 108 min.)
Dir. Annie Goldson
Programme: Democrazy (Canadian Premiere)


One interviewee in Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web calls Internet bad boy Kim Dotcom a master of PR. This doc about Mr. Dotcom verifies this fact about the German hacker, venture capitalist, and egomaniac to such an extreme that it does the film a disservice. (And, yes, the computer geek changed his surname to Dotcom.) Dotcom joins a cast of talking heads to recount his rise from obscurity as a hacker who used his notoriety to bill top dollar for internet security consultation and then used this money to create the file-sharing site Megaupload. There’s a lot of positive spin on display here for a profile about a guy who made hundreds of millions of dollars by decimating the entertainment industry.

Dotcom‘s case became significant when the FBI took action against him by enlisting local police to perform a comically overzealous raid on his New Zealand home. The doc explains how this raid snowballed into a high-profile extradition battle that made the bad boy of the ’net a martyr for personal privacy and security. Director Annie Goldson makes an admirable effort to achieve objectivity by acknowledging both sides of the argument, but the presentation sides firmly with the subject and ultimately lets Dotcom off the hook for the irreparable damage that he and other pirates have caused to the entertainment industry.

The film essentially gives Dotcom a platform to tell his version of the story. Frankly, Dotcom’s testimony isn’t worth the time it takes to listen to it. He is an arrogant and uncharismatic subject who shows no remorse for the fact that his fortune is built off the work of others. He argues that giving people a platform for piracy doesn’t make one responsible for copyright infringement. He also uses the ambiguity of laws surrounding internet sharing and the cloud to his advantage, but the failure of the legal system to anticipate Dotcom’s crimes doesn’t exonerate his actions.

Dotcom sidesteps his culpability by portraying himself as the true victim of the ordeal and the film attempts the same manoeuvre. Caught in the Web weaves a dramatic tale of collusion between the Motion Picture Association of America, the Whitehouse, the FBI, and former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key that alleges that Hollywood pressured Obama to make an example of the guy letting people steal their movies. The interviews with members of the MPAA and other critics of Dotcom add to the conspiratorial tone, but the film offers little tangible proof beyond an entertaining conspiracy theory. Caught in the Web comes to Dotcom’s defense by outlining the violations of privacy that the American government commits against its citizens, but the hacker is ultimately a victim of the same sort of liberal internet usage that made him a fortune. Kim Dotcom is not exactly Edward Snowden. He’s a hacker, a pirate, a crook, and a boor who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar of intellectual property. He’s nothing more.

Many kids, from an early age, learn that two wrongs do not make a right. Apparently, nobody involved with Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web received the memo.

Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web screens:
-Tuesday, May 2 at Hart House at 9:30 PM
-Thursday, May 4 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 10:45 AM
-Saturday, May 6 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 5:45 PM

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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