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Films Offer Contrasting Views of WikiLeaks

Films Offer Contrasting Views of WikiLeaksi
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October 22, 2013
Bill Condon’s feature film, "The Fifth Estate," on WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, focuses on the war of information in the digital era and asks whether the freedom to publish classified documents should supersede national security. The docudrama, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange, comes on the heels of Alex Gibney’s documentary, "We Steal Secrets," on the same subject. Both movies, though very different, show that in the digital age, information is still power. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.

Films Offer Contrasting Views of WikiLeaks

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Penelope Poulou
Bill Condon’s feature film, The Fifth Estate, on WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, focuses on the war of information in the digital era and asks whether the freedom to publish classified documents should supersede national security.

The docudrama, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange, comes on the heels of Alex Gibney’s documentary, We Steal Secrets, on the same subject. Both movies, though very different, show that in the digital age, information is still power.

In 2010, more than 90,000 classified US military documents were published on an obscure website by Australian computer hacker Julian Assange. Assange and his Wikileaks are the main characters in Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate.

"If we could find one moral man, one whistleblower, someone willing to expose those secrets, then men could topple the most powerful and most repressive of regimes,” the Assange character says in the film.

In the movie, Assange takes center stage long before his massive release of classified US military logs from the war in Afghanistan. The film portrays him as brilliant, egocentric, and unscrupulous, releasing information regardless of the human cost. His ideas put him at odds with his WikiLeaks collaborator Daniel Berg.

“There are things that are true on the Internet and there are things that aren’t true on the Internet," Condon said. "So, who is ultimately going to be able to help us distinguish between those two. That’s been the traditional role of journalism, The Fourth Estate, but it takes money. The Fifth Estate has emerged recently and represents the kind of citizen journalism that’s emerged in the age of the Internet.”

Although Condon says his story is balanced, he steers the audience against Assange and his simplistic treatment of the character led Assange to decry the film.

Many film critics agree that the film lacks the depth of Alex Gibney’s documentary We Steal Secrets, about Assange and Private Bradley Manning, who provided the documents.  

“The deeper I got into it, the more I began to wonder why isn’t Manning a bigger part of this story," Gibney said, "so the focus began to shift and Bradley Manning  I would say is just as important to this film as Julian Assange."

Gibney presents Manning’s torment over the information he stumbled on. He also presents Guardian reporter Nick Davies as an important participant in redacting sensitive information from the documents.

In a statement, reporter Mark Davis, who was with Assange during the collaboration with The Guardian, paints a different picture.   

"Everyone in the room was hell bent on meeting the release date despite Assange’s reservations," Davis said. "It was Assange, entirely alone, who removed 10,000 names prior to the release."

Whatever his moral choices, both films agree Assange revolutionized the way information reaches us today.

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by: Arbed
October 23, 2013 4:53 AM
Hear what people who know and work with Julian Assange had to say after seeing the movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9YrH8FyWs0&feature=c4-overview&list=UUcg9c3gXb_rwyqzeCaLuHDA

Also, you should be really careful about recommending Alex Gibney's documentary We Steal Secrets. The director held a personal animosity towards Assange because the latter would not grant him an interview, so Gibney actually told lots of lies in his film. Example: There really is no excuse for a documentary maker to interview a woman making allegations of sexual assault, juxtapose that interview with a photograph from the police forensic evidence file of the torn, "used" condom she handed to police, and then NOT tell his viewers that the forensic lab ALSO found that the condom in question didn't have any DNA on it - not even hers. Clearly, she's handed in fake evidence and, clearly, that must have been obvious to Alex Gibney when he read the police file during his research. Reputable filmmakers don't do that, and Alex Gibney's willingness to knowingly use false evidence in this film can only lead to the question "What else isn't true in this movie?"

Get the real facts here: http://wikileaks.org/IMG/html/gibney-transcript.html


This new, definitive analysis of exactly how the unredacted files got out, takes apart Daniel Domscheit-Berg's central role in that event, and also blows apart Guardian journalist David Leigh's lies about the matter, explaining how the Guardian's tech department and his book's fact-checkers must have warned him about the chapter title where he reproduces the Cablegate file's encryption key. But Leigh's priority was obviously not to protect State Dept sources, he wanted the book (original title, The Rise and FALL of Wikileaks) to destroy Wikileaks as an rival organisation.

http://rixstep.com/2/20131001,00.shtml

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