Startupcom

Movie Review by Susannah Macklin

Starring: Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, Tom Herman, Bill Clinton, Maynard Jackson

Directors: Chris Hegedus, Jehane Noujaim

When Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman said as teenagers that they wanted more E, their parents were probably the only responsible adults in the US not fraught with worry. Because it was in their formative years that these two made it clear they had a dream. It was a dream to create their own internet site and step into the heady world of e-commerce.

Debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this fascinating documentary from Chris Hegedus (THE WAR ROOM) and first time feature director Jehane Noujaim is essential fly-on-the-wall viewing for anyone who loves reality by the bucket-load. STARTUP.COM sees Kaleil and Tom on the latter part of their trail for success, on the road to create govWorks.com, a site providing interaction between local government, citizens and businesses. A site requiring more than just the computer wiz-kid get up and go and the heads for business, they always thought they had.

Although Kaleil and Tom appear to have more than the necessary business acumen, they discover to their cost, that the road of e-commerce is a road probably best travelled with no emotional attachment! It’s one thing to watch the bottom fall out of e-commerce, but it’s another to see it drop out of a life long friendship. As the film progresses we see the business growing but the friendship take a hammering. Perhaps it says something for the character of man that it’s this section of the story that is most gripping, because at the end of the day (even in an e-business day that begins at 5.30am and ends at about 1am) we just love to see other people embroiled in arguments. The only difference with this is – that when you’re looking in on real people’s lives that are starting to go awry, you can only be a voyeur for so long. It’s perhaps then that Hedegus’ and Noujaim’s mistake is we are playing ‘Big Brother’ for too long. After just 90 minutes of e-speak and morale boosting chants, a few days in the middle of these turbulent, private lives and it starts to feel like forever.

However it isn’t all bitter wrangles and e-tangles, there are some pretty amusing and insightful moments. For anyone who has ever pondered over what they’d name their own business themselves if they were to start a rock group, or their own business ‘baby’ – a scene when Tom and Kaleil are trying to choose a name for the web site is great stuff! Also watching Kaleil’s change of persona as the business starts to have some success should be useful in studies of the human psyche! In the simplest terms – this docu-drama is a terrific study of people and the way they operate.

STARTUP.COM doesn’t make for ‘regular’ viewing, but it’s different enough to hold your attention, so much so in fact, that by the end of all the tension – you’re just waiting for it all to blow up. But does govWorks explode or implode? You’ll just have to wait and see!

3 out of 6 stars

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