For the past six years, Oscar-winning documentarian Laura Poitras has been following controversial Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange. Her camera captured Assange's journey from before he began his political asylum in London's Ecuadorian embassy, granting a never-before-seen insight into the whistleblower's life.
Assange may not have left that embassy building since 2012, but a lot has happened to him since; namely, Wikileaks' involvement in the 2016 US federal election. With Clinton's bid in the presidential race lost, and Assange and Wikileaks under more scrutiny than ever, now seems the right time for Poitras to release the documentary she's worked on for so very long.
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Risk has been picked up by Showtime, and is set to be released sometime this summer. But what does it have to offer that we haven't seen before? Let's take a look at why Risk is worth the watch:
Laura Poitras Is The Right Person To Tell Assange's Story
Few filmmakers know the true meaning of the word "risk" like Poitras. She's been a subject of the U.S. government's intense surveillance and investigation since producing her documentary My Country, My Country in 2006. Her dedication to telling the stories of those who dare to oppose the government has landed her in considerable hot water; something that looks to be explored in Risk.
In the trailer, Poitras reveals what she interpreted as a potential intimidation tactic from those tracking her: coming home to find her apartment door open. Disturbingly, this is a reality that's become more and more familiar to Poitras since she helped whistleblower Edward Snowden expose the NSA's illegal surveillance practices back in 2013 alongside two other journalists.
In fact, it was Snowden who anonymously contacted Poitras in an effort to release the leaked documents that backed his claims. Poitras captured their exchanges on film, and the documentary Citizenfour was made. Poitras was already considered a high threat to Homeland Security, but Citizenfour only made matters worse. The attention caused her to relocate to Berlin, a place she believed to be safe from the prying eyes of the U.S. government.
Considering Snowden's close involvement with Wikileaks since the 2013 incident, as well as Poitras' reputation for documenting whistleblowers, it's no surprise that Assange would entrust her to tell the story of Wikileaks.
The Creator Of 'Mr. Robot' Is Executive Producer
If you're a fan of #MrRobot, then #Risk will probably be right up your alley— and not just because they both follow the story of ballsy hacktivists. Sam Esmail, creator of Mr. Robot, serves as executive producer for Risk.
Judging from his writing on Mr. Robot, Esmail seems a fitting choice for a film about Wikileaks. But what's really interesting about his involvement with Risk is the fact that during the election, he stated that he was a supporter of Hilary Clinton:
As strange as it might seem to see Clinton supporter Esmail producing a documentary about one of Clinton's biggest critics, this is actually a good thing. It demonstrates the potential to add an objective perspective to the film and its subject, helping to prevent it from becoming bogged down in bias.
A Unique Insight Into Assange's Life Then And Now
Besides Esmail's involvement, a line of Poitras' narration in the trailer suggests that this is far from a glorification of the scandalous Assange:
"This is not the film I thought I was making. I thought I could ignore the contradictions. I thought they were not part of the story. I was wrong. They're becoming the story."
Poitras could be talking about anything or anyone, but could this statement be directed at Assange himself? At its core, Wikileaks' mission was always about presenting the truth to the public, and allowing the people to make of it what they will. Criticisms against Wikileaks have definitely mounted over the past few years — for example, the accusation that they choose not to release specific information that may go against their supposed agenda. Perhaps Poitras herself became disenchanted with Assange and Wikileaks the more she learned.
Nevertheless, if Poitras' past work is anything to go by, it's expected she'll follow Wikilieak's same original ethos with Risk; presenting Assange as he is, and has been, for the past six years.
Despite his confined environment, so much has happened to and around Assange over the past six years, and Poitras has captured it, raw and unabashed. As she confesses in the trailer, "sometimes I can't believe what Julian allows me to film."
Risk even contains rare footage of Assange disguising himself for one last adventure just before entering the Ecuadorian embassy; his final moments of freedom:
Regardless of what you think of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, Risk looks to provide a candid look into his life over the past six years. And given Poitras' reputation for uncovering the truth in her work, it'll be one riveting story.
Will you be watching Risk this summer?