Rich Jones
Fri Oct 24 11:58:22 PDT 2014

Saw this last night - an obvious must-watch for all CPunks. I think it was
probably the most important documentary film of all time. As Roger Ebert
said, "it’s as if Daniel Ellsberg had a friend with a movie camera who
filmed his disclosure of the Pentagon Papers every step of the way. Or if
the Watergate burglars had taken along a filmmaker who shot their crimes
and the cover-up that followed. Except that the issues “Citizenfour” deals
with are, arguably, a thousand times more potent than Vietnam or
Watergate." Truly, this is the Snowden story we have been waiting for since

The main revelation of the film, however, is what an incredible boob Glenn
Greenwald is. I had some idea of this after seeing him give an extremely
disappointing talk earlier this year, but I don't think I quite understood
how useless this guy really is. He's constantly asking the wrong questions,
displays a technical ineptness (to the point of deliberate ignorance) that
obviously hampers the journalism, and at very step shows a very clear
desire to keep the document cache to himself for careerist purposes. At one
point Ewen MacAskill brings up the idea of there being a Wikileaks-esque
document explorer, and Ed says that this would be the best outcome for the
documents, and Greenwald quickly dismisses the idea to talk about his
publishing schedule. I still have immense respect for him, but I found it
very frustrating and quite cringey to watch him treat the whole event in
news-cycle terms, while everybody around him is obviously thinking in
historical context. For instance, there is a moment when they are prepping
for Ed's first on-camera interview and he asks the reporters how much
background he should give about himself, and they give different answers.
Poitras asks for as much detail as possible, and Greenwald basically says
that isn't important, just be short so we get a good soundbite.

More importantly, I think the film also misses an opportunity to talk about
*power*. This is something Edward himself has addressed, but it isn't
really covered in Greenwald's reporting or books, and the only time it's
mentioned in the film is when Jacob Appelbaum, while speaking before a
European council of some sort, quite astutely comments that surveillance
and control are one and the same. I think the film should probably have
spent another hour or so investigating, naming and confronting those who
profit from that control. Other than a few choice C-SPAN snippets, the
enemy is completely faceless, which plays well for the pervading sense
paranoia which envelops the film, but also leaves many questions unasked.
Perhaps that's left as an exercise for the viewer, but I think the general
take-away message from both the reporting and to a slightly lesser extent
the film is that any "solution" will be token reform of policy and not
dismantlement of power structures.

Also, very nice of the Russian government to let Ed have his girlfriend
back. I didn't know that had happened, and it gives a rather unexpected
happy ending to a film which otherwise made me want to cry desperately.

Anyway, I'd be very interested to hear what you lot thought of it. (JY, you
should throw a torrent up ASAP! I'm sure people will be screenshotting and
analyzing all of the new document shots the film contains.)

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