Filming in fear: Edward Snowden as 'Citizenfour'

Wed Oct 22, 2014 8:10am EDT
 
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By Jill Serjeant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. documentary maker Laura Poitras has found herself in many a risky situation in Iraq and Yemen. But she never felt in as much danger as when she was filming Edward Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel while he prepared to blow the whistle on massive secret surveillance programs run by the U.S. government.

Those tense eight days form the centerpiece of "Citizenfour," her account of how the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor decided in 2013 to release to the media tens of thousands of classified documents, and the global repercussions of that action.

"I think he (Snowden) was certainly in danger and I certainly had a lot of fear. I have worked in conflict zones but I felt more fear working on this film than I did when working in Baghdad," Poitras told Reuters.

"It was clear for me, when we started communicating over email, that if he was legitimate we were going to anger some of the most powerful people in the world, and people who would try to make this stop. These are powerful institutions and they have an enormous reach," she added.

"Citizenfour," opens in select U.S. movie theaters on Friday. It takes its title from the moniker Snowden used when he first approached Poitras through encrypted emails with a view to exposing how the NSA gathers data on the Internet activities and phone calls of millions of ordinary Americans and dozens of world leaders.

Poitras shared a Pulitzer prize for her role in publicizing that information, and "Citizenfour" is being tipped by awards watchers for an Oscar nomination in January. Variety called it "an extraordinary portrait" of Snowden, while Salon.com described it as "an urgent, gripping real-life spy story that should be seen by every American."

TRAITOR OR HERO?   Continued...

 
Accused government whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on the computer screen of a journalist on the internet site of the Council of Europe, as he speaks via video conference with members of the Committee on legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe during an hearing on "mass surveillance" in Strasbourg, April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler