In era of leaks, Toronto film festival tackles transparency

Tue Sep 3, 2013 8:39am EDT
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By Mary Milliken and Julie Gordon

LOS ANGELES/TORONTO (Reuters) - As director Bill Condon was finishing up his film "The Fifth Estate" about Julian Assange and anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden started leaking U.S. security documents, reigniting the public debate over secrecy, security and whistleblowing in the Internet era.

"The same lines were being used, the same script was being recited, it was fascinating," said Condon. "And then Assange appeared and became part of the story."

"The Fifth Estate," which will open the 38th annual Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday, comes just months after Snowden leaked documents about spying at the U.S. National Security Agency with the support of Assange and WikiLeaks.

The film boldly leads the way on a prevalent theme throughout this year's lineup - transparency and secrets.

"It's the tension between transparency and privacy in the Internet age and how far each one goes and how those ideas butt up against each other," said Condon, who directed "Dreamgirls" and won a screenwriting Oscar for "Gods and Monsters."

"The Fifth Estate" stars English actor Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange and is based on the book by Assange's once trusted lieutenant Daniel Domscheit-Berg about events that led to the largest leak of official secrets in American history in 2010.

For Condon, Toronto is the best place to premiere his first foray into government and politics: not only is it "a generous movie-loving audience, it is also a well-informed one."

It is also a festival that has come to be known as the starting block in the race for Oscars six months down the road. The coveted People's Choice Award propelled the fortunes of "Slumdog Millionaire," and "The King's Speech," which both went on to win the Academy Award for best picture.   Continued...

Director of the movie Bill Condon poses at the premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" in Los Angeles, California in this November 12, 2012, file photo. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files