Econintersect: The world premiere of the Laura Poitras film, CITIZENFOUR, was held at 6 pm 10 October 2014 at the New York Film Festival in Lincoln Center, New York City. The film will open in theaters 24 October. The film is purported to be a detailed study of Edward Snowden the person and the revelation he has made about U.S. NSA (National Security Agency) activities.
From the New York Film Festival web page:
In January 2013, filmmaker Laura Poitras was in the process of constructing a film about abuses of national security in post-9/11 America when she started receiving encrypted e-mails from someone identifying himself as “citizen four,” who was ready to blow the whistle on the massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. In June 2013, she and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Poitras is a great and brave filmmaker, but she is also a masterful storyteller: she compresses the many days of questioning, waiting, confirming, watching the world’s reaction and agonizing over the next move, into both a great character study of Snowden and a narrative that will leave you on the edge of your seat as it inexorably moves toward its conclusion. CITIZENFOUR is a major work on multiple levels, and a deeply unsettling experience.
Here is the short trailer for the film:
Early reviews of the film following the premiere at Lincoln Center are glowing but also critical, sometimes in the same review. Michale B. Kelley at Business Insider says the film is “utterly fascinating” in its detailed documentation of the process of Snowden making the revelations to the journalists who broke the story in the summer of 2012. But Kelley also says the film is “critically flawed” because it fails to address questions about “the former NSA systems administrator’s alleged theft of more than a million NSA documents“.
The review in The Guardian, the paper that broke the Snowden story, is largely positive, even glowing. The lead indicates the film is “victorious” and Snowden is “utterly vindicated“. Yet the praise is also more subdued, as in:
Given the passions that the NSA disclosures have generated, it’s remarkable how tempered Citizenfour comes across. Reflecting a style Poitras seems to share with Snowden, it’s a quiet movie, its soundtrack a sinister digital throb, packed tight with questions about how we live freely in an unseen dragnet.
Eric Kohn’s IndieWire review is also very positive, commending filmaker Poiras for moving “things along at a brisk pace” while “chronicling the moments leading up to” the initial interviews. Kohn remarks on the character that Snowden reveals in the film while all the while insisting he is not the story. It appears that in Kohn’s view he is at least a significant part. Kohn points out that the film does not leave the impression that it is wrapping up a story, but rather only starting it. He cites the reference that there is information starting to come out from at least one additional whistleblower. When that is revealed to Snowden Kohn writes: ‘”Holy shit” is all that Snowden can muster.’
The Variety review leads with: “Information is a weapon that cuts both ways in Laura Poitras’ extraordinary portrait of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.” This review points out how the film story reveals the distraction that Snowden himself feels he is to the story on which he seeks focus: The spying activities of the NSA (National Security Agency).
It seems that this film (opens in theaters 24 October) is one not to be missed. And it also seems that, like the Lord of the Rings – Hobbits series, this may go on for quite a while longer.
- CITIZENFOUR (The 52nd New York Film Festival web page)
- New York Film Fest Will World Premiere Laura Poitras’ Edward Snowden Docu ‘CITIZENFOUR’ (Jeremy Gerard, Deadline Hollywood, 16 September 2014)
- The New Snowden Documentary Is Utterly Fascinating — And Critically Flawed (Michael Kelley, Business Insider, 11 October 2014)
- Citizenfour review – Poitras’ victorious film shows Snowden vindicated (Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian, 11 October 2014)
- Review: Edward Snowden Doc ‘CITIZENFOUR’ is a Bracing Look at NSA Whistleblower’s Impact (Eric Kohn, IndieWire, 11 October 2014)
- Film Review: ‘Citizenfour’ (Ronnie Scheib, Variety, 11 october 2014)