Sunday, 10 April 2016

I've Just Seen: Citizenfour (2014)

Citizenfour (2014)

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Director: Laura Poitras

Learning about people through the news media rarely gives you a full impression of them as a person; they can sometimes come across as a fictional character, acting to a narrative, their behaviour commented on and criticised by anyone. Edward Snowden, leaker of material secretly collected by intelligence agencies around the world, is one such person; a person whose actions have polarised many, turning him into either a hero or a villian. The picture of Snowden presented by Poitras in her film is of someone quietly aware of the impact his actions are going to have on his life and those around him, feeling regret at the problems it will cause his loved ones, yet firmly holding on to the belief his is doing the right thing.

This is the great strength of Poitras' documentary, that it presents Snowden as an real person on the brink of doing something life-altering. We see him revealing to Poitras, and journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill the extent of the surveillance, and his fear of detection before he can release his information. A random fire alarm in the hotel they are meeting in triggers real concerns for the group, wondering if this is a ruse. Snowden also shares some private moments of worry he has for his partner, after she contacts him when some people from work turn up to his house.

This is quite amazing documentary that feels like a behind-the-scenes feature about the stories we saw in the news. Though Poitras is clearly in sympathy with Snowden, and gets followed herself after all the information is public, she lets the subjects speak for themselves: I sometimes forgot she was in the room filming these things, especially the scenes of Snowden in his room with the television breaking the news about his information.

Whatever you think of Snowden this is a must-see documentary that takes you into the mindset of a person choosing to jeopardise everything for the sake of the truth.

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