“The Boy Who Sold the World”

This documentary film was scheduled to screen at South by Southwest (SXSW). Screen Zealots will continue some of our planned coverage of SXSW, the annual film festival in Austin, Texas that was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 



Stories about wunderkinds who thought up a cool idea for an app and then went on to make millions can sometimes seem like a dime a dozen, but one of the more compelling tech figures is exposed in the documentary film “The Boy Who Sold the World.” This modern day coming-of-age true story, from director Adam Barton, observes 20 year old Ben Pasternak as he dreams, develops, fails and succeeds in the tech startup world, and gives a fascinating look at what goes on behind the scenes in terms of both creativity and corporate business.

Pasternak created a viral game app when he was a middle schooler and by 15, he’d secured venture capital funding to build a brand new tech startup. He dropped out of school, moved to New York City, and began to lead his new company. The film follows the teenager through several different projects, even the ones that flopped, and it paints a personal portrait of what it’s like to create and launch a dream idea.

Early on, Pasternak does things you’d expect a kid to do, like play video games and appoint a slightly older person (whom VC’s would take more seriously) to the position of HOBO (“Head of Being Old”). It’s not easy to like this kid, but it’s also impossible not to appreciate his natural business sense. He makes it (almost) look easy, mostly because he is wise beyond his years (like his insistence to surround himself with experts).

The film is well constructed and insightful, especially towards the end when it observes the creative process behind the Nuggs social media campaign. Millennials understand grassroots marketing and trends more than anyone, and it’s never been exposed so thoroughly as it is here.

“The Boy Who Sold the World” is the type of film that will appeal to many ambitious creators, especially younger minds like Pasternak — brilliant in the art of “business savvy,” but still kids with plenty of growing up to do.


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