Writer/director Alex Winter’s latest, ‘Downloaded’, presents the evolution of digital media sharing on the Internet, the persons behind its creation, controversial file sharing software particularly Napster, the music, the bands, and, the businesses that were affected by it, and its impact on the world of the Internet. ~ Showing Saturday 22 June 2013 at FilmBar ~ 815 North 2nd Street, Phoenix, AZ – (602) 595-9187
As always with film, which was a constant reminder from one of my teacher’s in film school ‘back in the day’, and the purpose of entertaining, informing, educate, or enlighten, the documentary ‘Downloaded’ encompasses all of the above as it follows Napster from its rise in 1998, through the lawsuits that ensued, to its acquisition by Rhapsody in 2011.
Writer/director Alex Winter, with a directing career firmly grounded in episodic television with feature film steadiness including his popular ‘Bill & Ted’ journey films, briskly moves ‘Downloaded’ along with ‘high speed internet’ capability. If one is thinking in the traditional mindset of a ‘documentary’ with the slow, methodical pacing as facts, data, and the ever present ‘talking heads’ in a interview format, a word of caution – Don’t even think in those terms… This reviewer watched ‘Downloaded’ twice to absorb the amount of very relevant and eye opening data being presented.
From the opening sequence where the overall theme of the film is put into play with the shot of a computer screen as the typed words in real time serves to draw the viewer into the screen to set the stage for the behind-the-scenes revelations as the dawning of the new file sharing software age took hold and changed the way we think, acquire, and play our music, while changing the way we use the internet forever.
Beginning in 1998 with Napster founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker while in college, the documentary follows the chronological progressive growth of their concept as it moves through various stages, from music industry influence on copyright issues to the congressional level with hearings on piracy and new technologies, while shaping the way promotional, distribution, and the physicality of the product from vinyl, cassettes, CDs, and, ultimately – mp3 files, the mainstay of internet music format acquisition today.
We see, and hear the tone from their voices, as the evolution of the two founders from their college age through file footage while feeling the growth and commitment to their concept in their young adult years as their overall theme makes it way through the various appellate courts, as the future of Napster became the tip of the iceberg as other file sharing software emerged, and the battles that ensued creating ‘The Perfect Storm’ as file sharing software companies, music/record companies, and court systems went head to head.
As closing credits rolled that updated the current status of prominent persons involved, writer/director Alex Winter’s film ‘Downloaded’ with the revelations, the fervor and my own elevation of the impact of file sharing and my own use of the internet with iTunes to continuously add to my own collection of music and movies, I thought, ‘How fitting it is that one art form, filmmaking, which I’ve been involved all of my life, has broadened my perspective on another art form, music. I’ll never look at my iTunes app in the same way ever again, which, indeed is a good thing…’ (Grade: B+)
Appearances by Henry Rollins, Noel Gallagher, Mike D, Chris Blackwell, Lawrence Lessig, Seymour Stein, Hilary Rosen, John Perry Barlow, and Don Ienner.
Written & directed by Alex Winter; VH1 Television release; 106 minutes