Monday 23 February 2015

CitizenFour is a worthy Oscar winner and wakeup call to us all.

CiizenFour won the Oscar for best documentary at last night's award ceremony, and if you haven't seen it yet, do so as quickly as possible. Trust me, it does for mobile 'phones what Psycho did for showers.

The film follows the first eight days that Edward Snowden spent in Hong Kong with the film-maker  Laura Poitras, and the Guardian journalists Glen Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill. It is obvious from the start that neither of the two reporters has any clear idea what Snowden is talking about, which is good because most of the viewers won't either. Instead of explaining it all using a voice-over, Laura Poitras allows us to realise the terrifying implications of what Snowden is saying through their eyes. 

We learn not just that the state spies on us, but that it spies on pretty much all of us via the mundane items that we take for granted, such as our mobile 'phones. Prior to 2013 when these Hong Kong interviews took place, few of us realised that the Anglo-American states had taken surveillance to levels that the old East German Stasi could only dream about.

To make matters worse for the British viewers, whilst the Americans still have some protection under their constitution, the British have hardly any protections from their own state, which is why Laura Poitras has decided not to visit this country for the time being.

If that sounds alarmist, then towards the end of the documentary we are reminded of just how the British version of the old Strasi pulled in Glen Greenwald's boyfriend under the all-covering excuse of terrorism.

My only criticism of CitizenFour is the fact that it ends just as Ed Snowden is about to leave Hong Kong, and it doesn't follow the next week which saw him leave for Ecuador, only to become trapped in Moscow. That said, Laura Poitras became certain that she was being followed so it made sense for her to vanish back to Germany with her reels of film. By the way, she edited everything in the German capital for fear that if she took the raw footage to the USA it would be seized by America's home-grown Securitate.

Another point that the film might have made is that Snowden is not the leftist that many people in Britain think he is. Actually, he is a libertarian admirer of America's Ron Paul, who began his road to whistle blowing by objecting to Barrack Obama's desire to ban the sale of assault weapons.

Small caveats aside, the film did clear up one matter that had stuck in my mind ever since this story broke, which is that Lindsay Mills, Snowden's delightfully exhibitionist girlfriend, did manage to join him in Russia. He had left her in the house that they shared in the USA with just a note saying that he would be away for a few days on business, and the first that she knew about anything was when Uncle Sam's Securitate began banging on the front door.

As a lesson in the raw power of the United States, and the craven desire of the British ruling class to grovel to that power as a kicked dog whimpers at its master's feet, this film cannot be matched. It needs to be watched by everyone who has ever thought that they are safe from prying eyes, especially those people who think that British sovereignty needs to be saved from Brussels. Sadly, it has already been sold to Washington. 

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