Continuing with its presentation of recent films, the Intervals series will screen Risk, a documentary by Laura Poitras (1964) which explores the global surveillance network and the threat it poses to civil liberties in the 21st century. The focal point of the film is Julian Assange (1971), the founder of WikiLeaks and one of the most controversial figures of our times.
Film-maker Laura Poitras sees film as a space from which to dismantle the political-military-industrial complex that shapes American democracy. Her work is built in the present, but the stories she narrates are neither fiction nor representation; they happen while she is shooting her films. One such illustration is Citizenfour (2014), an Oscar-winning documentary which sees CIA agent Edward Snowden first reveal, in front of camera, American intelligence agencies’ global espionage system and illegal wiretapping, which culminated in the so-called US National Security Agency (NSA) scandal. Poitras decided to follow up this film by painting a portrait of the WikiLeaks founder and his organisation and private life. The result is a multifarious film with such a feeling of unease that a protracted legal battle ensued between Poitras and Assange, who tried to censor certain scenes and managed to keep the film out of circulation for a year.
Risk begins in 2011 and stretches across six years, showing at once an admiration for WikiLeaks’ direct journalism and the alternate mass of light and dark in an organisation managed with an internal opaqueness by a power-obsessed leader. Thus Laura Poitras, just like the audience, becomes trapped in this web of contradictions as she plunges into the events in Assange’s life, for instance the arrest warrant in Sweden and the forced asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.
Laura Poitras is a director and film producer. She directed the 9/11 Trilogy — which explores the illegality of the so-called global war on terror — My Country, My Country (2006), The Oath (2010) and Citizenfour (2014), and was also executive producer of 1971, Evaporating Borders and The Law In These Parts, directed, respectively, by Johanna Hamilton in 2014, Iva Radivojevic, in the same year, and Ra'anan Alexandrovicz in 2011. Her work has been shown at art festivals such as Manifesta 12 (2018) and has been the subject of exhibitions such as Laura Poitras: Astro Noise at New York’s Whitney Museum (2016).