Citizenfour, the film chronicling the decision made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to expose wrongdoing to the world by leaking details of the agency's top-secret global surveillance operation to journalists, was awarded the Best Documentary Film award at Sunday night's Academy Award.
"My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world." —Edward SnowdenThe award was accepted by the film's director Laura Poitras alongside its producers, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky. Joining them on stage was journalist Glenn Greenwald and Snowden's girlfriend Lindsay Mills, both of whom are featured in the film.
"Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage and for the many other whistleblowers," Poitras said as she accepted the award.
"The disclosures that Edward Snowden revealed don't only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself," she added. "When the most important decisions being made affecting all of us are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control."
Snowden himself, of course, was not at the ceremony as he remains in Russia where he has lived since 2013 under protective asylum. However, through his attorneys at the ACLU, Snowden did release an official statement in reaction to the Oscar win.
"When Laura Poitras asked me if she could film our encounters, I was extremely reluctant," Snowden stated. "I'm grateful that I allowed her to persuade me. The result is a brave and brilliant film that deserves the honor and recognition it has received. My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world."
In a congratulatory post on the blog of the digital freedom advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, Rainey Reitman, the group's director of activism, said the award "recognizes not only the incredible cinematography of Poitras, but also her daring work with a high-stakes whistleblower and the journalism that kick-started a worldwide debate about surveillance and government transparency."
Describing why the Oscar victory has import beyond the prestige of the trophy, Reitman continued:
This award means that more people will be no doubt be watching CITIZENFOUR, and thus learning about both Snowden's sacrifice and the surveillance abuses by the United States government. For those watching the movie for the first time, there's often a sense of urgency to get involved and fight back against mass untargeted surveillance. Here are some suggestions for getting started:
- Tell President Obama to amend Executive Order 12333, which is the primary legal authority the NSA uses to engage in surveillance of people worldwide.
- Start using encryption when communicating digitally.
- Speak out against reauthorization of a much-abused section of the Patriot Act which is set to expire this summer.