If you’ve been following the news, you already know how Citizenfour starts and ends, but the journey is still a compelling one with unexpected moments that could shock you.
Just in case you’ve forgotten, Edward Snowden is an I.T. contractor who used to work for the National Security Agency in the
After a screening of Citizenfour, director Laura Poitras joins a panel to talk surveillance and how it can affect Hong Kong in the future
he documentary starts before Poitras met Snowden; it introduces you to characters like William Binney, another NSA employee who resigned after a long career because he realised that a programme he helped develop was being used to spy on Americans. Even if you’ve been following all the developments with Snowden since 2013, you may not have all this background and it helps you appreciate the massive scale of what the NSA is doing.
The film then builds up to Snowden’s arrival in Hong Kong and we see him telling Glenn Greenwald, a columnist at The Guardian, what he knows about the NSA surveillance programmes, as well as how he reacts to his story being played on international news channels. That also adds to what we already know, because we can see the lengths to which Snowden goes to make sure the NSA is not listening in on his conversations in the hotel. There’s a sequence involving a fire alarm which is particularly effective.
The last act follows Snowden to
At times, the film feels long because again, we know from the news exactly what happens next. But getting to observe Snowden up close adds an extra, more human, layer to what is already a historic story.