25 Jun 2017

Annie Goldson: 'Kim Dotcom is dancing in the surf'

From Sunday Morning, 10:05 am on 25 June 2017

The new documentary Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web screens at the New Zealand International Film Festival this July.

It goes behind the scenes with the controversial Auckland-based internet mogul and looks at his copyright battle with the US government and entertainment industry.

The complex and compelling character of Kim Dotcom is now part of the New Zealand vernacular and his story raises issues that are relevant to us all, says filmmaker Annie Goldson.

Dotcom agreed to do the film on the understanding that there wouldn't be editorial compromise, she says.

"He had to think 'What's in it for me?', as all subjects do."

He also understood the film had to be independent in order to be shown in festivals.

While it received partial funding from the NZ Film Commission, a government agency, she says they exerted no editorial control.

Dotcom was born Kim Schmitz on the wrong side of the tracks in the north of Germany.

Discovering computers as a young man was a "light bulb moment" for him, she says.

He first became a notorious hacker with a taste for publicity, then an internet security consultant before setting up the file-sharing website Megaupload in Hong Kong, she says.

"Kim's argument is that he created this technology and there were clearly millions of uploaders sitting around waiting to find it and it took off."

Megaupload was shut down in 2013 by the US Department of Justice with allegations it cost copyright holders more than $500 million – Dotcom claims that under existing law, the company was not responsible for the actions of its users.

Annie Goldson

Annie Goldson Photo: Supplied

Dotcom, who has been a New Zealand resident since 2010, represents many things to many people, Godson says.

"You have the left-wing anti-surveillance crowd, you have the aspirational millionaire crowd, you have the anarchistic youth crowd.

"There is something about his humour and his willingness to take on authority that makes him pretty interesting."

From Goldson's experience, the relationship between Dotcom and his wife Mona is genuine.

Mrs Dotcom is facing an uncertain future, she says.

"She's got Kim's five children, she doesn't know what the future is going to be. She's kind of got nowhere to go because she also came from the wrong side of the tracks in the Philippines, so she's kind of stuck here, too."

Goldson showed Kim Dotcom a "pretty late rough cut" of the film before its release.

"I say to all of my [documentary] subjects 'If there's something you're really really really unhappy about, let's talk about it', but I don't promise to change anything, either."

He made some good points about the film, but on other points they didn't agree, she says.

"In some ways, it's more what's not in the film than what's in the film that he had some concerns about."

Dotcom has remarkable chutzpah and in a way flaunts his resistance, Goldson says.

"He's dancing in the surf, opening new websites and political parties and raves..."