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Why Laura Poitras’ Snowden Doc ‘CITIZENFOUR’ Is an Oscar Frontrunner (Video)

Why Laura Poitras' Snowden Doc 'CITIZENFOUR' Is an Oscar Frontrunner (Video)

During the opening minutes of “CITIZENFOUR,” it hits you that journalist-turned-filmmaker Laura Poitras was actually filming NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden from their first meeting. She shows us first hand what happened and takes us deep into his mind in her new documentary “CITIZENFOUR,” a New York Film Festival world premiere and now Oscar frontrunner for Best Documentary.

Poitras documents the eight days she spent in a Hong Kong hotel room with Snowden and Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill as Snowden prepares to drop the bomb on the world.

While it shouldn’t have been a shock that last year’s winner of the International Documentary Association’s Courage Under Fire Award was preparing a film on Snowden, the cone of secrecy surrounding the project meant that the announcement that the film was finished, breaking at the NYFF and hitting theaters October 24 –via RADiUS and Participant–was big news indeed. 

Here are the film’s first raves so far. Watch the trailer and New York Film Festival press conference with the filmmakers below. (More background on Poitras’ muckraking film trilogy, which “CITIZENFOUR” completes, in our story here.)

And stay tuned for my interview with Poitras later this week. 

Indiewire: Poitras’ bracing look at the former National Security Agency contractor, whose intel about government surveillance launched a firestorm of global inquiries following his exodus from the country in 2012, gives us everything we already knew about Snowden and his findings in a tightly-wound package — while hinting at a fascinating bigger picture filled with new information.

: “Actually, ‘inside’ doesn’t do the film justice; Poitras isn’t picking the brains of experts and beginning her investigation after the fact. As Snowden and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald sift through a cache of confidential documents to decide where to strike first, Poitros is there rolling camera, rubbing shoulders with a man whose media profile would explode only a week after their first face-to-face meeting. A reminder of the NSA’s infractions, an indictment of American bullying tactics and a powerful character study of the down-to-Earth Snowden, ‘CITIZENFOUR” is an expertly crafted expose with unprecedented urgency.

Variety: “Far from reconstructing or analyzing a fait accompli, the film tersely records the deed in real time, as Poitras and fellow journalist Glenn Greenwald meet Snowden over an eight-day period in a Hong Kong hotel room to plot how and when they will unleash the bombshell that shook the world. Adapting the cold language of data encryption to recount a dramatic saga of abuse of power and justified paranoia, Poitras brilliantly demonstrates that information is a weapon that cuts both ways.

THR: “What ‘CITIZENFOUR’ offers in spades is a rampage of acute political, ethical, technical and philosophical considerations articulated by an exceedingly smart real-life cast. Collectively, they introduce issues relating to corporate collusion with governments, self-censorship on the internet, penetration of eavesdropping devices where you don’t expect it (such as hotel telephones), the threat of secret police and the assumption that the U.S. can intercept any communication.”

Associated Press: “The one-of-a-kind film presents a remarkably intimate portrait of Snowden, including his first meetings with the journalists with whom he shared thousands of documents revealing the previously undisclosed collection of Americans’ phone and email records by the National Security Agency.”

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