‘Citizenfour’ – Edward Snowden Documentary Paints Whistleblower In Favorable Light

Citizenfour, a documentary about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, debuted last weekend at the New York Film Festival, and by all accounts the movie paints Snowden in a favorable light.

Calling Citizenfour “seamless and darkly riveting,” Deadline says the film “puts an indelibly human face on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.”

Laura Poitras, the film’s director, is no stranger to documenting political intrigue. She considers Citizenfour the third film of a trilogy, which includes The Oath (a film about Guantánamo), and< em>My Country, My Country (about the Iraq War).

Some might consider further information in this article SPOILERS.

Citizenfour begins in January, 2013, with a voiceover of someone reading an encrypted email from “citizenfour,” which outlines some of the basics of the surveillance machinery and information gathering already in place. The film continues over the next several months, as Poitras and reporter Glenn Greenwald come to understand the amazing scope of Snowden’s documentation and arrange to meet him at a Hong Kong hotel.

By that point, of course, Edward Snowden is on the run from the United States Government. Over several days in June, Poitras and Greenwald begin to release stories via The Guardian.

As we all know, once the stories about the NSA become public, they’re quite explosive. The documentary then shows how Snowden wants to make sure that no one is blamed for the leaks besides himself. As the Obama Administration denies the stories and calls for Snowden’s capture, the whistleblower is clearly terrified, and he still doesn’t want to become part of the story. Snowden wants to make sure that the government doesn’t shift the story to one of him being a whistleblower, but rather, he wants the media to focus on the details he’s made public.

What’s not shown in Citizenfour, because it didn’t happen until after Poitras and Greenwald left Hong Kong, was Snowden contacting Lana Lam of the South China Morning Post. In addition to the 200,000 documents Snowden gave to Poitras regarding the NSAs spying on U.S. citizens, he also took 1.5 million additional documents that pertain to which adversarial governments the United States is spying on and how they’re doing it.

Snowden told the South China Morning Post why he didn’t release the documents earlier.

“I did not release them earlier because I don’t want to simply dump huge amounts of documents without regard to their content. I have to screen everything before releasing it to journalists.”

Poitras has not commented on Snowden’s recent releases of information to China.

Citizenfour opens in theaters on October 24.

[Image via Engadget]

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