WikiLeaks documentary spotlights complexity of Julian Assange

Fri May 24, 2013 9:11am EDT
 
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may claim to be a champion of transparency, but when an Oscar-winning filmmaker wanted to shine a light on his rise to fame after publishing secret U.S. diplomatic cables on his website, Assange was none too pleased.

Alex Gibney set out to uncover the story behind Assange, 41, and the website he founded in 2006 to leak classified information submitted by anonymous sources, but received little cooperation from the former computer hacker.

In theaters Friday, "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks" explores how WikiLeaks, at its height, facilitated the publication of thousands of classified U.S. government documents, including diplomatic cables and U.S. Army logs from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To tell the story of WikiLeaks, Gibney sought to interview Assange but found the elusive Australian difficult to persuade, eventually deciding to film without him.

But the filmmaker spoke to Assange several times off camera, and said he came to form a picture of a complex character.

"If you catch him in unguarded moments, he can be terribly charming, self-deprecating and a really engaging human being," Gibney told Reuters.

However, whenever Assange felt the conversation was becoming an official interview, Gibney said he became unwilling to "give me the kind of honest reflections that would have been so important (to the film)," likening him to a "human soap box."

When Gibney decided to film the documentary without Assange's participation, he said the WikiLeaks founder did not take the news well.   Continued...

 
Director Alex Gibney poses at the International Documentary Association's annual celebration of the Academy Awards Documentary nominees in Beverly Hills, California in this February 20, 2008 file photo. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may claim to be a champion of transparency, but when an Oscar-winning filmmaker Gibney wanted to shine a light on his rise to fame after publishing secret U.S. diplomatic cables on his website, Assange was none too pleased. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files