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Laura Poitras. (Photo: PopTech / Flickr Creative Commons)

Laura Poitras Documentary Depicting First Contact With Snowden Slated For Release

The New York Film Festival made a surprise announcement this week that it will show the film "CITIZENFOUR" this fall.

Sarah Lazare

Laura Poitras' new documentary about Edward Snowden's revelations of National Security Agency surveillance will have its global premiere on October 10 at the New York Film Festival, event organizers announced Tuesday.

Poitras, an award-winning filmmaker and journalist, was the first reporter to communicate with whistle-blower Edward Snowden about his evidence of NSA spying. Her film is called "CITIZENFOUR," the name that Snowden used when he reached out to Poitras in 2013 via encrypted emails. The documentary includes footage of the encounters that took place, five months after the initial contact, when Poitras flew with journalist Glenn Greenwald to Hong Kong to meet with Snowden.

Poitras has been personally monitored by the U.S. government, placed on the watch list of the Department of Homeland Security, and sustained border harassment and detentions in numerous instances for her journalistic work, including that prior to her contact with Snowden. She told the Associated Press that she chose to edit CITIZENFOUR in Berlin because she felt her material was not safe in the United States.

In an interview with Salon last year, Poitras was asked if she is "worried about retaliation" for her investigative and journalistic work surrounding the NSA. She replied:

You know what? I’m not. I’ve been harassed for a long time, I wouldn’t be surprised if that continues. Being here and seeing the kind of—actually, Glenn was really inspiring. Really incredible courage in journalism and just saying, we need to talk to him about these things. It’s not OK that we have a secret court that has secret interpretations of secret laws; what kind of democracy is that? I felt like, this is a fight worth having. If there’s fallout, if there’s blowback, I would absolutely do it again, because I think this information should be public. Whatever part I had in helping to do that I think is a service. 

People take risks. And I’m not the one who’s taking the most in this case.

The late announcement of the CITIZENFOUR screening marks the first time the New York Film Festival has added a film after the initial release of its schedule, according to the Huffington Post.

In an interview with the New York Times last year, Snowden stated:

Laura and Glenn are among the few who reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period, even in the face of withering personal criticism, [which] resulted in Laura specifically becoming targeted by the very programs involved in the recent disclosures. She had demonstrated the courage, personal experience and skill needed to handle what is probably the most dangerous assignment any journalist can be given—reporting on the secret misdeeds of the most powerful government in the world—making her an obvious choice.

"Seeing CITIZENFOUR for the first time is an experience I’ll never forget," said New York Film Festival Director Kent Jones, in a statement. "The film operates on multiple levels at the same time: a character study (of Edward Snowden)… a real-life suspense story… and a chilling exposé. When the lights came up, everyone in the room was alternately stunned, excited, and deeply troubled. A brave documentary, but also a powerful work from a master storyteller."


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EU Joins Rights Group in Condemning Israel's 'Day of Destruction' of Palestinian Homes

"Demolitions are illegal under international law and significantly undermine the prospects for peace."

Brett Wilkins ·


GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·


Africans Should Be 'Applauded, Not Punished,' Say Advocates Amid Omicron Travel Ban

"What is going on right now is inevitable," said African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance co-chair Dr. Ayoade Alakija. "It's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·


UNESCO Members Adopt First Global AI Ethics Agreement 'To Benefit Humanity'

"We're at a critical juncture in history," said Ethics in Tech founder Vahid Razavi. "We need as humans to come together and decide what is the best course of action to take with these technologies before they surpass us in their abilities."

Brett Wilkins ·

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