New SIFF Review: Something Ventured

In the age of Inside Job and The Big Short, you'd hardly expect to see a sympathetic portrayal of unfettered capitalism, but that's exactly what Something Ventured is. Very well crafted by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine (Ballets Russes), the documentary intersperses new interviews with old stills and archival footage to write a short, punchy history of Silicon Valley from the venture capital side. It's a nimble overview of the origins and IPOs of companies like Atari, Oracle, Cisco Systems, and Apple (sorry, no Steve Jobs interview), but it's also inherently self-serving, almost an infomercial.

You could give it the alternate title Rich White Guys Talk About How They Made Their Fortunes; and, given our ongoing recession, some of their smugness does grate. (One interview with dandyish Tom Perkins, of Kleiner Perkins fame, has a rocking, weird window view behind him; then you realize he's being filmed on his slowly bobbing yacht.) Back during the Mad Men era, says Intel's Gordon Moore, "Nobody thought of starting their own company." Fifty years later, every smart young college grad seems to think it's a birthright. Though Something Ventured doesn't really consider such tidal shifts in the economy and culture, they're expressed in small, telling details. Intel's original one-page business plan, an appeal for venture capital, is a charming document with several typos--pecked out on an actual typewriter, which Intel, Microsoft, and company would soon replace. And apart from ousted Cisco cofounder Sandy Lerner (the only woman interviewed), there are no critics of the VC-IPO model. Was Michael Wolf (Burn Rate) really not available? BRIAN MILLER (Pacific Place: 9:15 p.m. Tues., May 31.)

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