Kaleil and Tom were best friends when they were teenagers and have decided to start up a business together, gOVwORKS.com, which is going to offer local governments the chance to get their services onto the internet in order to make them less bureaucratic. In the late 90s, money seems to be raining on anyone with a dot com idea which encourages Kaleil to quit his well-paid job at Goldman & Sachs to become the CEO of this new company. Of course, jumping on this bandwagon is not risk-free especially with the looming economic turndown of 2000. Is the company going to be another Boo.com or will it manage to restructure fast enough to survive in this cutthroat environment? How will Kaleil and Tom's friendship fare in this highly stressful environment?
Filmed over more than a year, Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim managed to come up with an incredibly coherent film out of hundreds of hours of footage. Noujaim was in fact Kaleil's roomate at Harvard then went on to work as a producer at MTV but decided to start filming her friend's odyssey when she heard about it - she managed to hook up with Hegedus a famed documentary maker, wife to D. A. Pennebaker (who also produces this effort) and they both set off as a two-person crew to film every waking hour in the lives of both Tom and Kaleil which sometimes meant 18 hours of filming a day. What makes such a topic so fascinating is probably the fact that it works as a moral fable as well as a documentary although there is no voice over at all and the only narrators are the characters themselves. Although the viewer may at times feel a little guilty of "shadenfreude", the film does seem to split it's time fairly between the trials and the tribulations of the company. In years to come, when the dot com frenzy will probably be filed alongside the South Sea bubble in history books, I suspect this will be a good document to look back upon to get an insight into what was exactly was happening back then. Aside from the historical value of the film, it is also a gripping tale of ambition and failure which will stand up to repeated viewings and demonstrates documentary making at its very best.
The image:As it was all filmed on DV (digital video), the transfer was going to be an all digital process so none of the usual blemishes of the celluloid format are present on the DVD. The image is clear and the colours are as good as one can expect given the filming conditions in some lowlit environments. Of course, the drawbacks of DV remain on the transfer - there is an overall lack of precision in the image and digitalisation is easily visible to the naked eye but basically there's nothing that can be criticised as the DVD transfer is as good as one can expect for this type of film.
The sound:A 5.1 remix would have been ludicrous given the nature of the film so we do get the original DD stereo mix. The voices seemed to all come out of the central speaker with the music coming through in stereo. The voices are clear and the music is also quite dynamic and the lot is mixed together competently.
The menus:This is a quite nice animated menu with snippets from the film mixed in with the soundtrack whilst scenes from the film fly by. Nice and functional.
The extras:We get the usual basics with small biographies and filmographies of the directors and producers and a theatrical trailer presented in 1.85:1 (probably cropped for cinema viewing). Added to this, we also get extensive notes on the production which are well worthwhile reading although I think I would have preferred to have them printed in a booklet. A bit more than the bare basics but given that the R1 DVD got a directors' commentary and a documentary it's a shame AE didn't manage to secure them for this release.
Startup.com is a great watch and unless you have the chance of catching it on TV sometime, this is probably your best chance to see it. Although there's sadly too few extras, the whole package is competently put together and doesn't dissapoint.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 18:00:58