In January 2013, Laura Poitras started receiving anonymous encrypted e-mails from "CITIZENFOUR," who claimed to have evidence of illegal covert surveillance programs run by the NSA in collaboration with other intelligence agencies worldwide. Five months later, she and reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The resulting film is history unfolding before our eyes.Written by
Director Laura Poitras edited the film in Germany after flying directly there from Hong Kong with the Snowden footage, to prevent the FBI from showing up with a search warrant for her hard drives. See more »
In the second CNN item (friday, 53'), the Hebrew characters on the mobile phone in the background aren't censored in the first two shots. Afterwards the background has changed to only leave Latin characters on the dial pad. See more »
On June 21, 2013, the US government charges Snowden with three felonies, two under the Espionage Act and asks Hong Kong to extradite him.
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As I write this, a few days after the film's release, so far only three users have posted reviews about it on IMDb. Given that the film ends with the revelation that 1,200,000 people are on the US government's watchlist of people under surveillance, if you're contemplating adding a positive review, the first question that you have to ask yourself is: will this make me number 1,200,001? I've followed the media stories detailing the contents of the documents Snowden leaked, so that part of the film wasn't new to me, and in fact I felt some of Snowden's more serious disclosures were underexplored in the film, maybe because of their somewhat technical nature. If you're looking for a documentary that lays out in detail all the ins and outs of what the NSA is up to, this isn't it. The main strength of the film lies in its portrait of Snowden as a person. The filmmaker and other journalists basically meet Snowden in person for the first time with cameras running, and it's fascinating to watch them getting to know one another in such a highly charged, high stakes situation. Snowden is very articulate and precise, and obviously motivated by a very moral sense of right and wrong, in much the same way as Daniel Ellsberg. Whether or not you agree with Snowden, the film definitely undercuts criticism of him as being unpatriotic or mercenary. The documentary works well as an introduction to the Snowden story for those only casually aware of it, and also as a tense real world political thriller, sort of like Three Days Of The Condor come to life, but without the gunmen and Faye Dunaway. All in all, a very important film that everyone should see.
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