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Directed by Laura Poitras

Edward Snowden: It’s not science fiction. This is happening now.

I’m not sure I feel all that comfortable writing this review. Having seen CITIZENFOUR, I now know that they’re watching me right now. They’re always watching. Well, they’re not watching me specifically, but they’re watching basically everybody all at once in a variety of different ways and they are therefore watching me by extension. Also, I essentially knew this already but was conveniently ignoring the larger implications of where unsupervised, worldwide surveillance can lead. In all fairness though, this is something I think we all do on a daily basis because it is a lot easier than going off the grid completely. When you really get to thinking about our global collective apathy toward having our freedom and rights to privacy taken away from us, it is truly depressing. CITIZENFOUR aims to shake us out of our blissful ignorance before its too late and it does so with riveting urgency.


I don’t usually come into a trilogy with the last instalment but this is no ordinary franchise. In 2006, Laura Poitras launched her exploration of America post 9/11 with the Oscar nominated, MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY, a film about Iraq under American occupation; followed that up with THE OATH in 2010, which looks at two men as they go from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay. Her latest captures the 2013 National Security Agency scandal, where Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’a unprecedented access to surveillance, literally as it unfolded. Before going public, Snowden was in touch with Poitras and The Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, anonymously. When he finally met face to face with Greenwald to begin divulging what he knew of the American government’s increased surveillance techniques under the Obama administration, an administration that campaigned on the promise to curtail some of the policy that made this so rampant during the Bush administration, Poitras was there to film every moment. This story was everywhere when it broke and, while you might think that you already know all there is to know from what you saw reported on it at the time, to watch the words come directly from Snowden’s mouth is incredibly powerful. To watch Snowden nervously hesitate before leaving his hotel room for the first time after going public as the story’s whistleblower is simply moving.


At the time I am writing this, Snowden still lives in Russia and is still seeking asylum somewhere within the European Union. He cannot come back to the Uniter States as there are charges pending against hims under the Espionage Act. CITIZENFOUR does not go out of its way to paint Snowden as modern day hero but to witness the sacrifices he has had to make with his own freedom just to reveal to the world what has happened to theirs is a pretty compelling case all the same. Poitras concludes her provocative film with new hope, something most documentary filmmakers either don’t know how to do or leave to their audience to infer on their own. As Greenwald reunites with Snowden some time after he goes into hiding, he tells him of another whistleblower they’re working with. Snowden seems blown away by the magnitude of this particular story and is also perhaps vindicated that his journey was not for nothing. And so, the fight is ongoing. The question still remains as to whether it can be won or not.

4.5 sheep

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give Citizenfour?


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