As clearly demonstrated with this film, movie making can be a meaningful, powerful force. Put aside your conclusions concerning Edward Snowden and see this documentary.
Citizenfour is a compelling documentary about Edward Snowden that will make every American, liberal or conservative, doubt our government. As a person who remains a supporter of President Obama, I am infuriated with the manner in which his administration has stoked our national media in this whole sordid affair.
First and foremost, embrace the fact that all the participants play themselves. Filmed by Director Laura Poitras on the scene as Snowden revealed his documents, you get a firsthand look at everyone as the story gradually gained international attention.
Prior to meeting with Mr. Snowden in Hong Kong, Ms. Poitras had been receiving anonymous, encrypted emails from a source simply identified as CITIZENFOUR. The individual claimed that he had possession of documents demonstrating the American government’s illegal monitoring of correspondence around the world. Conducted largely by NSA, CITIZENFOUR asserted that nothing was off limits, including emails, phone messages and the analysis of other correspondence ranging from credit cards to cell phone records.
When CITIZENFOUR identified himself in Hong Kong as Edward Snowden, Ms. Poitras and reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill spent nearly two weeks with him collecting his information. With the permission of Snowden, Ms. Poitras filmed their meetings as they took place, and this is what you see on screen. It is as stunning as it is historically significant.
You quickly understand that Mr. Snowden turns out to be little more than a whistleblower who was willing to put his freedom on the line to tell a story that his own government was refusing to reveal. Able to browbeat every other possible source into silence, it took Snowden to challenge the power of the government to put the truth above his own freedom to reveal a story that needed to be told.
Labeled a traitor in the United States, our government has demanded that he voluntarily return and put his trust in our judicial system. However, it was the government that violated American privacy rights as revealed by Snowden, so why on Earth would he ever trust that same government to protect the Constitutional rights of anyone involved in this saga, particularly himself?
Snowden is clearly revealed to be sincere, and for those who condemn him please note that he was the person who revealed the disgusting fact that the United States government was monitoring German Chancellor Merkel’s phone conversations as well as other such calls in multiple countries. As an American, the film leaves you disgusted, not with Snowden but with our own government.
Since then, Snowden has had to flee the attempt of the American government to arrest him, and he was subsequently granted a stay in Russia. Quite frankly, it was the first and only time that I have ever applauded a decision made by Russia’s President Putin.
Besides the incredible foresight of Ms. Poitras, the documentary provides a first hand look about the principal writer involved in this saga, Glenn Greenwald. Mr. Greenwald, a writer for the English newspaper “The Guardian”, spends a great deal of his time living in the protected atmosphere of Brazil with his partner, David Miranda.
Greenwald is an intelligent, thoughtful man, and his skill as a reporter on such an explosive story rivals that demonstrated by Woodward and Bernstein during the Watergate years. He should be applauded for his willingness to risk his own security by challenging the American government to admit its profound abuse of fundamental rights dealing with both privacy and free speech.
This documentary, which demands consideration at Oscar time, is soon to be followed by a movie about Snowden directed by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon Levitt. While all Americans need to come to their own conclusion, I remain convinced that we as a nation should have the fortitude to drop all charges against Snowden and finally recognize him as a whistleblower who deserves praise for his courage, not condemnation.