Monday, October 20, 2014

See Edward Snowden blow that whistle in Laura Poitras' odd and alarming doc, CITIZENFOUR

A documentary that pretty much tells itself -- with some questions, of course, about what was chosen for inclusion and what was not -- CITIZENFOUR shows and tells the tale of how and why whistle-blower Edward Snowden first approached journalist/filmmaker Laura Poitras (shown below) and journalist Glen Greenwald in order to go public concerning the illegal surveillance being carried out on the American populace (and elsewhere throughout the world) by the NSA in collusion with our government.

However you define Mr. Snowden on the chart/scale from terrorist to crimi-nal to whistle-blower to hero, the movie should be of great interest simply in allowing you to see and hear him in action and repose. Well, as much repose as someone in his singular state at this time could manage. (We do see him groom-ing himself and trying to get a certain hair style down pat. Ah, vanity! On the other hand, he's human, so why the hell not?)

Poitras has inter-cut various interviews and archival footage having to do with the way we are governed now -- spied upon illegally, as our President assures us that nothing of the sort is taking place. (Just as George W. Bush was an in-office liar, so now is Barack Obama.) This information sets the scene, against which we can place what has happened because of Snowden's actions into some kind of perspective.

When he tells us and Poitras (and Greenwald, with whom he is shown, above) what he is doing and why, and especially how he feels it needs to be handled so that his actions can be perceived less in any personal way that would turn the spotlight on him rather than where it needs to be -- on what the NSA is doing illegally -- I find the young man, as I think you will, too, to be believable and not a little heroic. He also explains why he does not himself feel able to determine which of the information he is sending is actually a matter of National Security, and so must leave that to journalists who are more informed on this subject.

Along with visuals of some of the written communications between our protagonists (the above is one of the less interesting of these), we hear from other whistle-blowers like William Binney, who was an NSA employee, and watch, too, as another liar, Keith Alexander, purgers himself in his testimony. It is against all this that Mr. Snowden's revelations take on their impact. And when toward the end of this engaging and alarming documentary, Jacob Appelbaum explains to us that our current concerns over privacy are really just an extension of the liberty and freedom we have been seeking since, well, the American Revolution, the movie should ring a very loud alarm bell.

Too often asleep at the wheel of our own presumed liberty, we need to be roused into some kind of action -- which is what these whistle-blowers keep trying to do. Eventually, our own government, if its swing to the moneyed and powerful continues, will become the facility that enslaves us completely. Meanwhile we can thank Snowden and his ilk for having the courage to do their part, and journalists and filmmakers like Greenwald and Poitras for bringing the work of these whistle-blowers to our attention.

One final jolt is provided by Greenwald, who lets us know that he has a new whistle-blower waiting in the wings. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, Citizenfour (from Radius/TWC and running 114 minutes), which doubles as the name of the film and the moniker taken by Snowden, begins its theatrical run this Friday, October 24, in New York City at the IFC Center and the Lincoln Plaza Cinema. Elsewhere? No doubt. And eventually onto DVD and digital. 

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