Citizenfour (2014)

Brilliant, simply, spine-chillingly brilliant. Before I start I’d like to inform you that I’m breaking protocol here and I’m reviewing a documentary instead of a movie. I won’t be going into too much detail about the documentary, this will rather be an opinionated review based on the message the documentary conveyed. There are certain things that get you to question the world you live in, that act as an eye-opener. Citizenfour belongs to that category.

The documentary begins with an encrypted conversation between Laura Poitras (The Director of the documentary) and an anonymous source of classified information, who will later reveal himself as Edward Snowden. According to Snowden himself, he approached Laura because of her past endeavors and projects and also her passion for equity and clarity. With a series of encrypted conversations between Snowden, Laura and Glenn Greenwald (A journalist), Snowden arranges a meeting in Hong Kong.The meeting and the confirmatory messages are like they’re out of a fictional spy Hollywood movie.

As the documentary progresses, Snowden explains what the NSA was doing, why they were doing it, how they were doing it, where they were doing it and to who were they doing this to. Throughout the documentary, Snowden never seemed flustered or sacred as to what was going to happen, what were the consequences of his actions, possibly because he believed he was doing all this for the greater good of the free people of the world. But in the latter part of the documentary, Snowden was clearly weaker and his charm had worn off, dark circles had appeared underneath his eyes, possibly because of the stress of being the biggest whistleblower of the 21st century. Contrary to what the media has shown Snowden to be like, I found Snowden to be a very convivial, cogent and voluble person. He was extremely friendly with the reporters, he seemed very ingenuous and never refused to answer any of the questions. He has an extremely charming smile.

There is the scene where, the news about him being the whistleblower had just broken out and it’s playing on the television in the background and he is in front of a mirror, adjusting his lenses and asking Laura whether he should trim his beard. How cool can this guy get? I felt this was the most impact-full scene of the documentary because the man wasn’t rattled or scared about being called a terrorist and being convicted of treason.

Throughout the documentary, the makers have captured the key breaks of the Snowden-saga. How the NSA had secret tele-communications contracts with various broadband providers and internet firms all across the United States. How the NSA had been spying on the Brazilian and European nations via domestic and shell organizations. How the NSA had developed so many programs that could break through the most difficult firewalls and have access to the deepest secrets of the civilian society. All this seems fine when you just do a brief, outline-ish reading about this, but when you go into the dark and maleficent depths of this topic, you realize such information can cause so much damage to the civilian population and the government which carries out these operations, can defend itself of this, by saying it’s in the name of national security.

This is where it turns from elected and electors to rulers and servants. This is how dictators are created.”

The documentary also shows the amount of risk and danger journalists have to face while investigating and covering such sensitive stories. American journalists couldn’t enter their own country because they might be arrested and prosecuted for treason for actually helping American citizens and citizens all over the world to know about the egoisitc and monomanical ways of the National Security Agency.

This documentary won the best documentary award at the Oscars and Edward Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills (Go google her *gawks*) was present there to receive the award.

I would like to end by saying that, when nations got independence, freedom and liberty were the words that defined its civilians, but in today’s world, liberty and freedom are defined by the amount of privacy an individual can retain and maintain, which is shocking. This actually works against the initial concept of independence because, if a person in today’s world is so concerned about his/her privacy, clearly feels that he/she does not have the freedom or liberty to express himself/herself in a dignified manner. Food for thought, people.

Did someone say food?


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