Director, producer and cinematographer Laura Poitras reveals her interviews with Edward Snowden after being approached by him when Snowden sent her emails under the name Citizen Four and this disturbing documentary about the whistleblower who shined the light on the NSA and its illegal and nefarious spying on the public in the film. There may be someone in the world who has not heard of Snowden, or Julian Assange or the NSA or the FBI but it is unlikely unless said individual has been living under a rock or in outer space. Snowdon is the American who now lives in Russia, until further notice, and is “the world’s most wanted man.”
Poitras knows quite a lot about “being wanted” the documentary filmmaker learned about government surveillance first hand after her film, the 2006 made-for-television film My Country, My Country was aired, she was placed on the Department of Homeland Security list for monitoring and Laura was told by airport security that her “threat rating” is the highest that the DHS gives out. All this before her Citizen Four documentary focussing on the National Security Agency (NSA) and the recorded conversations of Edward Snowden, Poitras, Greenwald and MacAskill in a hotel room in Hong Kong.
Whether one believes in any other post 9/11 conspiracy theories or not, the documentary Citizen Four is disturbing and chills run down the spine of the viewer as a piece of history appears on camera. This interview took place before any of the world players got involved. Certainly Julian Assange has a small part in the film, not at the beginning of this tale, but towards the end. Snowdon contacted Poitras almost anonymously at first but after she learned who he was, the entire set of interviews were “hidden” from public view.
It is fascinating to see the story unfold and to see the whistleblower realise that despite his best intentions, the story becomes about him. Before earning his notoriety and getting placed on the world’s most wanted list, Snowden and Poitras reveal just how “un” private the average citizen’s lives are. Viewers also find out that the NSA have never been above lying about their activities and just how much information this government organization has access to and how much it retrieves.
Perhaps more disturbing is the knowledge that the NSA uses social media, like Facebook, to gather information about people on their lists and Mr. and Mrs. Public. Last year, the world learned about PRISM and how companies like AT&T, Microsoft and Facebook, et al, willingly gave the government access to people’s private information on a regular basis. Equally disturbing is the apathetic and lethargic response by Mr. and Mrs. Average. While one would have thought that citizens would be outraged at this information, this has not happened. Only a portion of the population are disturbed and presumably the mainstream denizens of the United States will view this documentary with the same lacklustre interest that they gave PRISM and the NSA revelations.
As one reviewer has said, Citizen Four shows history “unfolding” before the viewers eyes in this disturbing documentary and at a time where cyber terrorists just forced a major Hollywood studio to pull its Christmas release, watching Laura Poitras’ film is proof that the Internet, along with other computerized forms of communication, is a dangerous place for everyone, not just Sony Entertainment, but for every person who uses the world wide web for any reason. Citizen Four is still showing in select theaters across the United States. Prepare to be horrified at just how much privacy the average citizen does not have.
By Michael Smith
Radius Screener DVD