The first thing I did when Citizenfour finished was disconnect from the internet. My laptop, phone, tablet, all of it. Laura Poitras’s documentary manages bridge the divide between fascinating and terrifying. Laura’s previous documentaries (‘The Oath’ and ‘My Country, My Country’) caught the attention of the US Government, but they also caught Edward Snowden’s, because she was one of the first people he contacted when he decided to act.
The narrative is gripping and everyone needs to see this film. In fact it should be part of the US Citizenship test, or at least be shown on monitors while you’re waiting at Customs. Edward Snowden isn’t presented as a hero, but rather as a man who is standing up for something he believes in. We’re simply there to watch it all unfold, but ironically, what he’s standing for is us, and our right privacy.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald was also initially contacted by Snowden, and it’s through Glenn that we delve deeper into what the world of the NSA and Government contractors, all from a hotel room in Hong Kong. It’s all part of the narrative that also features a former NSA analyst giving evidence, to advocacy groups trying to build awareness of the issue. Wikileaks is believed to have played a part in helping ensure Snowden’s safety, with a glimpse (in what may be a first) into Assange’s room at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Whether you do or do not agree with Snowden, the sacrifice he made was enormous. In the final scenes of the film we see that his partner has joined him in Russia, their new home. At the time of writing more Snowden initiated leaks have been published (I’ll leave this to you to read). Citizenfour has been a deserved with during this awards season, just winning best documentary at the Oscars. The more people who see this film, the better.
Citizenfour is out now