Directed by Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim. Produced by DA Pennebaker.
Chris Hegedus is an acclaimed documentary maker whose 1992 study of Bill Clinton's presidential campaign, 'The War Room', won the DW Griffith Award for Best Documentary. Together with her partner DA Pennebaker (director of such documentary classics as 'Don't Look Back' and 'Monterey Pop'), Hegedus was interested in chronicling the Internet revolution and managed to hook up with Jehane Noujaim, an aspiring director whose Harvard roommate, Kaleil Tuzman, was about to launch an Internet start up.
Tuzman, along with his childhood friend Tom Herman, had come up with the idea of govWorks.com, a site which took the bureaucracy out of local government and would allow you to do everything from pay a parking ticket to buy a fishing licence online. They started off with eight staff in April 1999, by August there were 30, by October 70, January 120, April 200 and then came the crash and burn. In between they managed to get through around $60m in venture capital, fight, fallout and rediscover why they were friends in the first place. And in case you're wondering, this is the correct order.
Hegedus and Noujaim's film is a fascinating, funny and cautionary look at how a world of groups hugs and high fives transforms into night sweats and icy stares once those involved discover that Utopia is bankrolled by people who only see the bottom line. From the first moment it seems that Tuzman and Herman are ill-matched as the CEO's of an IPO seeking company - there's too much of a bond between them to suggest that things aren't going to get very personal very quickly.
Through a less trained eye, their journey could have been the techie version of 'This is Spinal Tap', but both Hegedus and Noujaim have the clarity to get to the issues beyond the boardroom with the film never focusing on one man at the expense of another. Both we discover have their faults, their failing is that they can see them in each other but rarely in themselves. There's plenty of excitement too, from the ticking clock as the govWorks founders play hardball with venture capitalists to Tuzman's meeting with Bill Clinton and - in an almost too good to be true moment - a break in at the office (which makes you wonder if you had $60m would it be too much hassle to hire someone who owned a flashlight?) which scuppers business strategies and starts the corporate death rattle which results in Herman's exit from the company.
By the close of both the film and the firm we see Tuzman and Herman working out together in a gym. The bulky Kaleil is trying to bench press a weight but it's too heavy and he needs Tom to help him. After their trials and tribulations of the past 90 minutes, the symbolism isn't lost. The two are now friends again and in a richly amusing postscript, have a new company which advises Internet firms in financial trouble. Some you suspect, are still too sore to smile.