New Edward Snowden doc to premiere at NY Film Festival

Edward Snowden. Photo by Laura Poitras
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Things have been fairly quiet in the Edward Snowden camp of late.

This is perhaps understandable, given that the US National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower is one of America’s most-wanted men.

He is hiding out somewhere in Russia, with the CIA, NSA, FBI – and in all likelihood a host of other three-letter acronyms – desperate to get him back to on US soil to be tried for revealing state secrets about the myriad abuses of privacy and civil liberties by the US security forces against their own citizens, and those of the rest of the world.

Despite his notoriety, however, the man himself remains something of a mystery. That might be about to change.

CITIZENFOUR, a documentary by the Oscar-nominated director Laura Poitras (My Country, My Country) – which tells the tale of Snowden's quest to bring the truth to light and subsequent life in exile – will have its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 10.

New York Film Festival director Kent Jones says the film operates on several levels, describing it as a character study of Snowden, a real-life suspense story and a chilling exposé.

Poitras was already making a film exploring the conflict between privacy and national security in the post-September 11 United States, when in January 2013 she began receiving anonymous emails signed “Citizen Four”. The mysterious source, who claimed to be ready to blow the whistle on the invasive activities of the NSA, turned out to Snowden.

The documentary includes footage from a number of interviews that Poitras and the American journalist Glenn Greenwald carried out with him in Hong Kong in the weeks before he had to go on the run to avoid arrest, eventually ending as a political refugee in the Russian Federation, where he remains.

The film will also screen at the London Film Festival a week after the New York premiere before going on general release in the US the following weekend (October 24).

cnewbould@thenational.ae