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Michael V. Allen
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Filmed over six years, Risk (2016) is a character study that collides with a high stakes election year and its controversial aftermath. Cornered in a tiny building for half a decade, Julian Assange is undeterred even as the legal jeopardy he faces threatens to undermine the organization he leads and fracture the movement he inspired. Capturing this story, director Laura Poitras finds herself caught between the motives and contradictions of Assange and his inner circle.Written by
Real Art Ways
The version of Risk (2016) presented at the Directors' Fortnight of the Cannes International Film Festival in May 2016 was reportedly generally favorable towards WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange and contributor Jacob Appelbaum. However, Julian Assange did not think so, as director Laura Poitras has revealed in interviews about the film. It's now known that right before the Cannes screening, Assange and Poitras had a long phone call. During that call, he was furious about the film and demanded changes, and in particular he was upset over the inclusion of scenes in which he discusses two women's accusations that he committed sexual assault against them. Despite Assange's anger, WikiLeaks staff members Sarah Harrison, WikiLeaks contributor Jacob Appelbaum, WikiLeaks lawyer Renata Avila, and other WikiLeaks associates reportedly attended the film's screening and a post-screening reception in Cannes to celebrate the film. The released version of May 2017 was re-cut. Julian Assange disapproves of the 2017 version as well, and has reportedly stopped speaking to Laura Poitras. See more »
[to Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy]
It's like you're in college - where do you sleep?
See more »
Take a risk--see an informative and entertaining doc.
"We don't have a problem, you have a problem." Julian Assange
As the ever-cool Assange announces to Hillary's campaign that leaks are forthcoming, he is slightly wrong: No one in the WikiLeaks world, on either side, is without problems. For Assange, four years of asylum-imprisonment in the London Ecuador embassy could not be easy; for Hillary, leaked messages and her private use of a server are only the beginnings of her problems.
It's all about info and who commands it—Laura Poitras's doc, Risk, lets us in to the private world of the Australian journalist and programmer Assange, founder of WikiLeaks in 2006, enabler of Robert Snowden, and purveyor of thousands of pages of secret government documents.
Poitras does a remarkable job keeping above the political sides, even admitting at one point that she does not trust Assange. She makes her presence known from voice over, yet rarely pushes an agenda other than entertaining and enlightening her audience.
Poitras gives the audience as much insight as they could hope for with a subject as opaque as might be expected: "What does it matter how I feel?" (Assange) Brief moments with Lady Gaga and Daniel Ellsberg provide humorous respite from the monotony of Assange's imprisonment.
Assange's answer as to why he does WikiLeaks is as evasive as his answers to most questions. Deflecting accusations of sexual harassment is pure Assange: He gently accuses hardcore feminists of a conspiracy against him. Sweden still wants to interview him about the charges.
Whereas in Citizenfour, Poitras let Snowden come off as a hero, she does not cut the low-key Risk in a way to make Assange saintly: "The risk of inaction is extremely high," he says in a reflection of his activist mentality and the title of the film.
He is smooth and careful, partly right and partly wrong, just like this documentary.
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