Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CitizenFour (Edward Snowden) film review

Last night was an incredible experience which included me getting together with some great libertarian friends in Los Angeles, where we saw the documentary film CitizenFour at the Landmark Theater.

CitizenFour is Laura Poitras’ third documentary film about civil liberties and human rights in the post-9/11 world.  It also features journalist Glenn Greenwald, who was credited for bold investigative journalism when the NSA scandal hit the fan in 2013.

However, the main attraction is the famous—or infamous—whistleblower, Edward Snowden.  When I say this film is about Snowden and his shocking revelations to the world, I don’t mean it simply talks about him.  The film features an eight-day marathon of interviews with Snowden in his hotel room in Hong Kong (filmed in April 2013).  For nearly two hours, Edward Snowden tells Poitras and Greenwald his story, motives, and objectives.

Says the film’s official website,

“Poitras had already been working on a film about surveillance for two years when Snowden contacted her, using the name ‘CITIZENFOUR,’ in January 2013.  He reached out to her because he knew she had long been a target of government surveillance, stopped at airports numerous times, and had refused to be intimidated. When Snowden revealed he was a high-level analyst driven to expose the massive surveillance of Americans by the NSA, Poitras persuaded him to let her film.”

The viewer gets an up-close look at Snowden’s personality and quirks—not just the one photograph and video clip the world has seen—is how the documentary is filmed like a thriller, with drawn out shots of concerned faces, suspenseful music, etc.  It definitely helps suck the viewer deeper into the story and message.  I won’t spoil some of the big surprises Snowden reveals on camera; I will share a personal testimony.  Before seeing this film, I’d spent over a year sitting on the fence as to whether Snowden was a patriot or had sold out and used the whistleblower story to cover his tracks.  After seeing the film, I’m convinced that Snowden was right to do what he did.

Snowden was, and is, a patriot for whom the Fourth Amendment and the Constitution are NOT negotiable.  The framers of American government meant for those first ten Constitutional amendments—the Bill of Rights—to be non-negotiable.

It’s just not right to spy on—so heavily invading the privacy of—American citizens (nor foreign citizens) who have done nothing wrong.  It’s also a slap in the face to all the troops in the armed forces, the police officers, firefighters, medics, and emergency workers who died to protect the lives, liberty, and property of their fellow Americans.  It does these fallen heroes the ultimate dishonor, having died for freedom and then their own government dissolving that freedom with a click of a button and a line of code.

This film is highly recommended for any libertarians, and anyone else interested in learning more about civil liberties, mass surveillance, and the idea of police states.  Even for those who disagree with and oppose Snowden, it’s important to see this film.  Anyone who possesses the ability to have an intellectual conversation—a comparison and exchange of ideas—and who can take an ideological position, has a responsibility to get their opponent’s arguments in his own words.  One must be familiar with their opponent’s arguments if they ever hope to deconstruct and refute them.  Otherwise, ideology becomes not an informed decision, but a blind “us-versus-them” mentality, and such a mentality has driven men to kill each other over thousands of years for the pettiest of reasons.

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Movie poster image courtesy of Hollywood Reporter.

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