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The Mouse That Roared

A feature documentary by Judith Ehrlich, Oscar-nominated director of "The Most Dangerous Man in America, Daniel Ellsberg & The Pentagon Papers."

The fight for free speech in the 21st century is being fought in cyberspace.

Surprisingly, its most dramatic story may be unfolding in Iceland. Our film follows three generations of online activists—from the birth of the Internet to the tragic death of Aaron Swartz in 2013—as their stories converge in the tiny North Atlantic island nation now poised to become a unique haven for free speech online.

Our dynamic guide on this trip is "Senator of Cyberspace" John Perry Barlow—internet pioneer and lyricist for the Grateful Dead—who discovered the World Wide Web while following the “Dead Heads” to their pioneering virtual community nearly 30 years ago. Barlow, son of a Wyoming Senator and former cattle rancher, has been credited with coining the term 'cyberspace' and co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He takes us from the earliest days of connectivity to Reykjavik, where he pronounced Iceland the self-evident “Switzerland of bits." WikiLeaks pioneers Julian Assange and Birgitta Jónsdóttir run with Barlow's vision and make it real, writing legislation that establishes Iceland as a sovereign nation protecting online free-speech as Switzerland protects money.

The central character of our film is Birgitta Jónsdóttir—trailblazing Icelandic Parliamentarian, co-producer of WikiLeaks’ "Collateral Murder" video with Julian Assange, poet and web pioneer, Buddhist and single mother of three. Birgitta champions the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative in Parliament, legislation that would offer her country as a free-zone for whistleblowers around the globe, as she courageously challenges the U.S. government's threats to her own freedom. One of the loudest and clearest voices emerging on the world stage to speak out for freedom of speech online, she takes us inside the global fight for an OPEN internet with art and heart.

We end with the tragic suicide of 26-year-old cyber wunderkind Aaron Swartz, who since age 14 has been at the center of major innovations online, and more recently became a leader in the fight against online censorship in the U.S. Threatened by a 35-year prison sentence for downloading millions of scholarly articles he believed belong in the public domain, Aaron took his own life in January of this year. In the months since his death, he is fast-acquiring martyr status amongst advocates for internet freedom. In our exclusive 2011 interview with Aaron at the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, he discussed the importance of IMMI—the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative—describing the immense change Birgitta's small country could offer the world by becoming the first global protector of online transparency and the free-speech activists who risk their lives to bring truth to the masses.

"OPEN: Outlaws & Pioneers of the Electronic Frontier" is a dramatic story of activism, intrigue, surveillance and secrecy. Introducing the Cypher Punks and spearheading hacktivists who fight for a transparent Internet in courts, congressional chambers and from the cyber-underground, we investigate the benefits of an OPEN internet and the threats to its survival.

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  1. America is a mean country. Not just for killing millions of people around the world but for treating so many of its own people in despicable ways.