Friday, November 7, 2014


In a film which will likely make you uncomfortable with the level of access the United States Government has into your private life, Laura Poitras documents Edward Snowden and his decision to reveal the NSA spying on law abiding American citizens without the warrants or even probable cause.

Citizenfour shows the meetings between Snowden, Poitras, and investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian intelligence reporter Ewen MacAskill who the intelligence officer handpicked to vet and leak the information to the public.

Despite the sensitive subject matter and worldwide manhunt for Snowden, Poitras is able to capture and present the story from her subject's point-of-view crafting a shocking and detailed look at an unparalleled level of government access which caused Snowden to reveal the truth only to become a fugitive for doing so. Although presented from a specific point-of-view, Citizenfour educates and informs taking steps to explain not only the information which Snowden leaked but also the reasoning behind his actions and the cost of those decisions.

One could argue the film doesn't spend enough on the possible dangerous repercussions of Snowden's actions. However, filmed during the events, Citizenfour is far more concerned with the discovery of the legal and ethically gray area in which the NSA had begun to do business not just in America but across the world and the need for a whistleblower such as Snowden to stand up and say when enough is enough. Snowden isn't the hero of the story but a reluctant protagonist who would rather step back into the shadows even though he knows such a move is impossible given the shocking nature of the information he's chosen to reveal to the world.

Much like Snowden's own life following the events of the leak, the film falters a bit towards the end as the rest of the story which his actions began has yet to be told. How will history view Snowden? Hero? Traitor? Or, as Poitras attempts to show him, a reluctant man ethically forced into an action he knows will change his life forever? Whatever your opinion of the man and his actions I urge you to watch the movie and view the problem from his unique perspective which Poitras so powerfully portrays in one of the most fascinating films of the year.

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