Edward Snowden is still a fugitive from the US government. Last night, at Hollywood’s glitziest party, he was heralded as a hero. And today many in the US will have the chance to decide for themselves for the first time.
On Sunday, journalist Laura Poitras won the Oscar for making documentaries for her film Burgervier, who chronicled Snowden’s journey and told the story of the journalists who handled the documents he gave them.
In her acceptance speech, Poitras thanked the Academy, the documentary community and Snowden herself.
“The revelations that Edward Snowden reveals threaten not only our privacy, but our democracy itself,” she said. “When the most important decisions that are made, which affect us all, are made in secret, we lose our ability to control the powers that control. Thanks to Edward Snowden, for his courage, and to the many other whistleblowers. “
Poitras won the Oscar together with her producers Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky. Also on stage were journalists Glenn Greenwald and Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s girlfriend.
Citizen four had only a limited theatrical release in the US, and was notoriously difficult to track down through legal streaming means (as of Sunday, it was not yet available on iTunes). However, the film will premiere today, February 23, when it is shown on HBO. And for British readers, Channel 4 will show the film on Wednesday night.
The most revealing part of the film is the footage shot in the hotel room in Hong Kong where Snowden first showed his top secret NSA documents to Poitras and Greenwald.
Snowden, who lives in asylum in Russia, has issued a statement on the victory handed out by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has asked President Obama to grant him clemency. Snowden said:
When Laura Poitras asked if she could film our encounters, I was very reluctant. I am grateful that I let her convince me. The result is a courageous and brilliant film that deserves the credit and recognition it has received. I hope this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by the message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.
Citizen four, which is also the online handle Snowden used when communicating with Poitras, was released in October. It received almost universally positive reviews. We’ve republished our review of the film on Ars.
Poitras was also nominated for the 2006 Oscar for Best Documentary for her war film about Iraq My country, my country.