Kim Dotcom: Caught In The Web: NZIFF Review
A project some 4 years in the making, Annie Goldson's fearless telling of the Dotcom saga is a compelling watch whose 2 hour run time flies by.
For Goldson, this re-telling of it all began in 2012 when the Dotcom case began after the infamous Coatesville mansion raid - and after 4 years of interest and pursuit of her subject, she finally got her man with access granted for an interview.
Taking in the locals who were interested in who was buying the house in their region (as all good parochial concerns prevail), Goldson begins to weave her own web as she spins the story of Dotcom and his involvement in New Zealand's media landscape, and his destructive dalliance with NZ politics.
Taking in a brief look at his background from hacker to infamous security consultant after he was caught and sprinkling it with a dash of his earlier years and home violence, Goldson begins to shift the pieces of the jigsaw with relative ease and aplomb. Throwing in the media environment and the effect that music downloading (Napster et al) had on that industry, Goldson starts to give context to how Dotcom's pioneering ways and innate ability to profit and self-promote from any position proved to be his downfall.
With a wide range of talking heads - from Moby to Jonathan Taplin - and deep access to personal archives, what Goldson's achieved with Kim Dotcom: Caught In The Web is utterly fascinating and totally thrilling. While it really doesn't offer much new evidence in the case if you've been following it, what it does do is present the facts and some of the fictions with a simplicity that anyone can understand.
Equally, it seeks not to vilify Dotcom or to praise him either.
And while the presentation of his lavish lifestyle from profits made from Megaupload make it hard to sympathise with him, it's equally difficult to sympathise with NZ police forces whose raid on the mansion was as fundamentally bungled as it could be. Goldson even takes footage from the raid and presents it unadorned, leading to some serious laughs as one man struggles to vault over a gate - this is not a documentary that takes sides as it presents the facts, and given how Dotcom is a master of spin and a prankster of PR, this is to be applauded.
Slickly put together and with some great input from journalist David Fisher, the only time that the film stumbles is in its interview with Dotcom, using little of that freshly granted access to provide new insights into the case (though admittedly, given the police and crown wouldn't comment, that would have ended up one-sided.) Equally, a long bow drawn that John Key's sudden resignation in 2016 came about because of some involvement in the case and the mounting tensions over the GCSB is presented without evidence and feels a conspiracy too far, regardless of your political leanings.
Archive footage from Dotcom's early days and concise cuts from her interviewees not only give Kim Dotcom: Caught In The Web the range it needs but provide a depth of research. Though it takes a skilled story-teller to ensure that they don't fall into the web of their own making - and Goldson never gets tangled in her own threads, keeping the film clean cut and precisely executed.
Ultimately, Kim Dotcom: Caught In The Web is a fascinating examination of the case. Its nuanced presentation and slick editing makes the complex very approachable (and bizarrely entertaining too). As an examination of surveillance tactics, copyright laws and an ongoing PR war, it's a gripping documentary by someone clearly well versed in the intricacies of the case and the innate absurdities of it all.