NSA, Snowden documentary wins director new PSIFF award
The Palm Springs International Film Festival had to create an award for Laura Poitras, bestowing her Friday with the Filmmakers Who Make a Difference Award for “Citizenfour” — a documentary that captures whistleblower Edward Snowden’s NSA surveillance leak unfolding in real time.
During a Q&A after her showing at the Annenberg Theater, Poitras said “there hasn’t been a lot of change” in NSA spying since Snowden exposed the agency’s unparalleled surveillance in the U.S. and abroad, including the pervasive gathering of phone communications.
While the U.S. government hasn’t directly contacted Poitras since she first returned in April 2014, she recalled the paranoia she felt when she started getting encrypted messages from Snowden in 2013.
“There was probably a year of really, really intense anxiety that I felt, and that began when I started receiving the emails,” Poitras said.
“Because it just kicked in — I knew the magnitude of what I was hearing and that if there were actually documents that were going to substantiate these claims that really powerful people would be angry.”
In the documentary, Snowden tells Poitras that he reached out to her to film his story because she’d made it on the NSA’s watch list.
Poitras and the other reporter initially contacted by Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, expected to find an “end-of-career senior” on the other end of the computer screen, she said, and were surprised to find a young NSA analyst risking everything from a Hong Kong hotel room.
Snowden gained Poitras’ trust when she heard him reminisce about freedom on the Internet before government spying — one of the film’s more poignant scenes.
“I remember what the Internet was like before it was watched,” Snowden says, looking off.
Adhering to the view “films don’t exist to break news,” Poitras filmed “Citizenfour” — named after Snowden’s signature in his coded emails — in the cinema verite style. She crafts narratives while documenting history.
Snowden, who obtained asylum in Russia and saw it extended three years last August, doesn’t give much away about his life today, Poitras said, but she believes he has a fellowship doing Internet privacy research.
“I’m still reporting on documents, so I’m in touch with him,” Poitras said. “Not as regularly recently because I’ve been traveling a lot, but I’m still in contact and so is Glenn.”
Source: The Desert Sun