Laura Poitras' documentary on Edward Snowden captures history in the making
Citizenfour is a documentary that makes a loyalty card seem completely ironic. Thanks to people like whistleblower Edward Snowden, news headlines have been rife with the stories about big government tracking us. In this real life political thriller, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras captures the moment Snowden released the kraken: he has secret documents proving that his former employer, America’s National Security Agency, is collecting an inordinate, illegal and unprecedented amount of information from virtually everyone. Naturally, the NSA and the USA are not happy.
Considering the, then 29-year-old, security expert could spend his life in prison his actions represented a huge risk, and have already disrupted his life immeasurably. Why did he do it? In Citizenfour – Snowden’s codename when he first contacted Poitras - he provides the answer, saying, 'I am more willing to risk imprisonment or any other negative outcome personally, than I am willing to risk the curtailment of my intellectual freedom and that of those around me, whom I care for equally as I do for myself.'
For the Oscar-nominated Poitras - herself stopped by American customs more than 40 times - this tense and alarming documentary is a crowning achievement. Approached by Snowden because of their own surveillance investigations, Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald helped Snowden release this sensitive information.
There’s a sense that there’s more to this story than can be told, more than Poitras’ already lengthy and sometimes hard-going 113-minute runtime can reach. However Citizenfour’s detailed look at the erosion of our liberties is a chilling hymn that will make converts. When Big Brother governments get even worse – they already know where you went, what you did, bought, when and with whom - this will be the 'told you so' film of 2014. For now, it's a sobering look at what the American government, at least, is doing in the name of security.
Selected release from Fri 17 Oct.