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StartUp.Com  

The most exceptional aspect of good documentaries is their ability to capture the kaleidoscopic collection of intimate details that form the backbone behind a depicted motivation. In the case of "Startup.com", the motivation is power and money; the arena is the meteoric world of dot-com mania ... yup, the very same world that now waves good-bye to numerous fledgling dot.com companies.

A dramatic adaptation could have been employed here, but wouldn't have been able to maintain the potent degree of intimacy caught in the true story of the rise and fall of govWorks.com, an award-winning internet website designed to better facilitate interaction between local government, citizens, and businesses.

 

The site is the brainchild of Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman, two close friends since childhood who have matured into savvy businessmen, although are now entering into the economic equivalent of a California redwood forest. But they're nothing if not tenacious, and their ingenuity in industrialization enables their entry into the world wide web's vast vestibule, filled to the brim with eager young entrepreneurs.

The arc of their plight could easily be translated into a dramatic narrative, but what makes "Startup.com" special is the itemization of those short but distinct moments of prescience that come back to serve as the turning point of one's endeavor. We are made aware of Kaleil and Tom's business-smarts and unmitigated ferocity regarding their endeavor, but we also receive noticeable hints that they could be venturing into unchartered territory a little too fast. One such moment occurs when they are presented with a seventeen million dollar offer from a venture capital firm that must be signed that day, but they cannot seem to reach their lawyer on the phone. Another scene has them realizing (after they've poured an unruly sum of money into the business) that the "search" feature doesn't work properly. Those kind of moments would most definitely be dropped if a dramatic adaptation was being endeavored.

The movie also contains a strong poignancy as the close personal friendship between Kaleil and Tom slowly begins to disintegrate when the business hits the skids. The documentary style perfectly captures the whirlwind of crushed emotions involved when a disputation regarding the company's managing leads to an unfortunate decision ... one that's bound to irrevocably alter their lifelong camaraderie.

The movie was directed by Chris Hegedus (whose previous endeavor was the Oscar-nominated documentary "The War Room" which tracked Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign) and Jehane Noujaim, a former producer at MTV. Together, they've created a film that makes its points without fully realizing how effectively it's getting the message across. "Startup.com" documents the efforts of two men who rose, fell, and will inevitably rise again, and treats the audience to an understanding of why.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney

Critically ill

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