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Documentary on Edward Snowden’s revelations wins Oscar

The film, edited by Mathilde Bonnefoy and produced by Dirk Wilutzky, won the Oscar for best documentary. In collecting the award Poitras, with journalist and collaborator Glenn Greenwald at her side, said: “The disclosures of Edward Snowden don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. When the decisions that rule us are taken in secret we lose the power to control and govern ourselves. I share this award with Glenn Greenwald and the many other journalists who are taking risks to expose the truth.” Also on stage was Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills. Host of the Oscars, Neil Patrick Harris, could not pass up a chance to add his own commentary as the winners left the stage: As the filmmaker and her collaborators walked offstage on Sunday night, Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris couldn’t help quipping: “The subject of ‘CitizenFour,’ Edward Snowden, could not be here tonight for some treason.” Snowden is in Russia and no doubt would be arrested should he set foot on U.S. soil.

Snowden wrote in response to the news: “When Laura Poitras asked me if she could film our encounters, I was extremely reluctant. I’m grateful that I allowed her to persuade me. The result is a brave and brilliant film that deserves the honour and recognition it has received. My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.” Ewen MacAskill, one of the stars in the film, congratulated Poitras for her work. He said he was very surprised at the professionalism and scope of the film when he saw it. He thought she had filmed Snowden, Greenwald and himself in Hong Kong simply to have a record of events or to create a low-budget film to use in a privacy campaign.
The documentary is the story of revelations by Snowden, a former NSA contractor, of the extensive spying by NSA and others unknown to the public. The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers began publication of the classified information in June of 2013. Both won a Pulitzer prize for Public Service Journalism the following year. The documentary had already won several awards in the last few months and was widely favored to win the Academy award for best documentary. Poitras is not new to film making. Her film My Country, My Country, whose subject was Iraqis who were living under the US-led occupation, was nominated for an Oscar as well. Poitras edited CitizenFour in Berlin for fear the FBI might seize the footage.
In a recent interview, Poitras was asked what has been learned from Snowden’s revelations about how the world works. She replied: The most striking thing Snowden has revealed is the depth of what the NSA and the Five Eyes countries [Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain and the US] are doing, their hunger for all data, for total bulk dragnet surveillance where they try to collect all communications and do it all sorts of different ways. Their ethos is “collect it all”.
The Five Eyesrefers to an intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US. Snowden described the Five Eyes as a “supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries.” Documents Snowden leaked show that the group spied on each others’ citizens and then shared the information in order to get around restrictions placed upon them that prohibited collecting such information on their own citizens.

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