Risk (15)

Risk (15)

Directed by Laura Poitras
Picturehouse, Liverpool
7th – 13th July 2017

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

The film opens with one of Julian Assange’s colleagues calling the White House in his presence, and naively expecting to talk to the then Secretary Of State in the US Hillary Clinton to discuss the multitude of leaks derived from the Pentagon and elsewhere, which were posted on WiliLeaks.

This assumption that because he is Assange he can communicate with the top dogs of politics illustrates the vain and self conceited nature of the man.

He was brave in 2010 in disclosing these secret documents, consisting of Iraq and Afghan war leaks and revealing widespread government surveillance of the American people.

His aim was, to quote him, “to expose the criminals of the US Empire.”

But the hyper praise he received for this appears to have led to him becoming narcissistic, having an inflated view of himself as being some sort of saviour in the name of democracy.

The nature of the documentary changed markedly for the worst when a number of of sexual allegations were made against him by two women in Sweden.

To escape the imminent threat of being extradited to that country to stand trial, which, if enacted could have led him being extradited again, this time to The USA, where he could have received a thirty year prison sentence for his role in uncovering secret US documents.

There are two absurd passages in the film.

Firstly, when an ultra paranoid Assange cuts short an interview with the director of Risk, Laura Poitras, when he mistakenly thinks he is being spied upon after he hears rustling in the bushes in the forest outside the mansion in Norfolk he used as the WikiLeaks HQ. In fact it was the sound of a bird making its way through the woodland.

And secondly when he agrees to be interviewed by of all people Lady Gaga! The first question she asked him in her interview was ‘What is your favourite food?’ Sounds like something a reporter would ask from a kids magazine.

Assange, as well as the people who work for WikiLeaks, are unhappy with the amendments Poitras has made to this ‘new’ version of the documentary. An earlier version, which was considered less critical of Assange, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016.

But Poitras has strongly made the point that from the outset of making Risk WikiLeaks would have no jurisdiction over its final content.

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