“Risk” will run on Showtime later this summer, while Showtime Documentary Films and Neon will also give it a theatrical release.
The news was revealed on Sunday night, as Showtime ran a surprise trailer (watch below) for “Risk” following the season finale of “Homeland.” The decision to announce it there wasn’t coincidental; “Homeland” featured a storyline this season about a shady organization that spread lies and “fake news” on the Internet in order to damage the reputation of the president-elect.
Poitras has been filming “Risk” for over six years as a follow-up to her Academy Award-winning doc “Citizenfour,” which focused on the story of Edward Snowden. (HBO aired that doc.) According to Showtime, “Risk” continued to film through the 2016 presidential election, during which WikiLeaks wound up playing a major role.
An early version of “Risk” screened last year at the Cannes Film Festival; at the time, IndieWire chief film critic Eric Kohn wrote, “a series of snapshots that make the case for WikiLeaks as a serious newsgathering enterprise, the movie won’t win Assange new supporters, but certainly offers clarity to his organization by showing that they aren’t just messing round. Sympathizing with her subject and his radical activism, ‘Risk’ doesn’t deliver the engrossing thrills of ‘Citizenfour,’ but it nevertheless radiates with the same degree of urgency.”
Assange has been camped out in the Ecuador’s London embassy for several years, attempting to escape being extradited to Sweden, where he’s accused of rape.
“Risk” first previewed footage at the New York Film Festival in fall 2015; the version of “Risk” that screened at Cannes last year was sympathetic to Assange’s plight. But that was before the election, and WikiLeaks’ clear objective to politically harm Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The WikiLeaks campaign to leak stolen emails damaging to Clinton had their desired effect, helping swing the election to Donald Trump’s favor. The aggressive, one-sided actions of WikiLeaks changed much of the public perception of the group.
It appears that Poitras may have at least somewhat changed her view of Assange and WikiLeaks in the year since Cannes showcased an earlier cut of “Risk,” and the final version is expected to take a sharper, more critical eye.
“Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail, who is an executive producer on “Risk,” has taken a nuanced approach in discussing WikiLeaks on social media. “Our democracy was definitely hacked,” he wrote in November. “But no, it wasn’t because of WikiLeaks. Those emails don’t justify voting for that piece of shit.”
Showtime calls “Risk” a “portrait of power, principles, betrayal, and sacrifice when the stakes could not be any higher. It is a first-person geopolitical thriller told from the perspective of a filmmaker immersed in the worlds of state surveillance and the cypherpunk movement.”
Neon’s “Risk” acquisition comes the same weekend as the new shingle’s first release, the Anne Hathaway/Jason Sudeikis sci-fi action film “Colossal,” to solid box office. It’s a reunion of sorts for Poitras and Neon principal Tom Quinn, who released “Citizenfour” while at the Weinstein Co.’s now-dormant RADiUS.
Meanwhile, “Risk” joins a slate of upcoming Showtime Documentary Films that include “Whitney. ‘Can I Be Me?'” and “Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars,” plus an untitled doc about John Belushi.
Here’s a first look at “Risk,” as premiered Sunday night on Showtime: