A little gem of a movie called Pandemonium (2000, d. Julian Temple) chronicled the free love and off-the-grid lifestyles of the Romantic poets Coleridge and Wordsworth. At one point Sara Coleridge (Samantha Morton) names her baby, simply, Citizenbaby. I think that everyone in today’s society is a kind of Citizenbaby. We think we’re anonymous but we’re anything but as we leave a breadcrumb trail of credit card purchases, cell phone towers pinpointing our travels, and social media comments.
The documentary Citizenfour takes the viewer behind the scenes of the reporters who broke the NSA spying on all electronic and digital communications story. Filmmaker Laura Poitras travels to Hong Kong with Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald to meet her source, an anonymous contact that has been communicating with her through encrypted emails. The gist of the tale is told through the eyes of paranoia; Poitras feels like she’s being followed and her narration suggest the same. After about a reel we meet her source in a luxury hotel room. Anyone who follows the news will instantly recognize Edward Snowden, although it’s another half-reel before he gives his name to another reporter.
What follows takes us inside the head of Snowden over the next several days, as he makes clear that he wants the journalist to identify him. Daily we watch news feeds of the breaking story and finally the revelation of who Snowden is and what he’s done. Even before the big reveal Snowden shows the reporters emails that suggest his bank account has been hacked and his home is under surveillance.
Snowden is a whistle blower of one of the biggest stories of our time and yet does it really come as a surprise that the government is spying on everybody in an Orwellian sense? Go watch the spy thriller Enemy of the People (1998. D. Tony Scott), which essentially says the same thing that Snowden’s documents prove.
Citizenfour keeps a consistent atmosphere of suspicion accented by music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose heard on the score. Citizenfour opens this weekend exclusively at the River Oaks Three.
— Michael Bergeron