An intimate, questioning portrait of controversial Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
In 2010, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange invited filmmaker Laura Poitras to begin shooting a film about his organisation and himself. Seven years and hours of footage later, the result is a thoughtful, intensely relevant and at times frankly jaw-dropping profile of one man’s battle with world governments, common decency and his own out-of-control ego.
Poitras is a sharp, insightful interviewer, and to his credit Assange is never coy or evasive – for better or worse, he speaks his mind. At first, he genuinely seems like the embattled hero so many of us took him for, speaking truth to power at a time when it really mattered. WikiLeaks’s work in countries like Tunisia, showing how the internet can be a tool of resistance, is still extraordinary. But then the rape allegations hit, Assange starts burbling about a ‘feminist conspiracy’, and pretty soon he’s squatting in an Ecuadorian Embassy back office patronising Lady Gaga to her face.
‘Risk’ may not have the spy-movie intensity (or the sympathetic hero) of Poitras’s Edward Snowden film, ‘CitizenFour’. But as a portrait of power gained and lost, of unchecked self-absorption and what drives people like Assange to do what they do, it’s absolutely fascinating. Watching it feels like history unfolding in close-up.