The Fifth Estate starring Benedict Cumberbatch exposes Wikileaks in Toronto Film Festival debut
Friday 06 September 2013
The Fifth Estate, an unlikely thriller that chronicles the emergence of anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and its enigmatic founder Julian Assange, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last night.
Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Assange, called the debut at Toronto the "perfect marriage" of a festival, known for its popular participation, and a film, about what he called "people journalism."
The festival is also considered a harbinger of the awards season. Films that have fared well in Toronto, like Slumdog Millionaire, have gone on to win best picture Oscars.
Some 366 films, including 146 world premieres, will screen over 11 days. Transparency and secrecy in the internet age have emerged as prevalent themes in the program, led by The Fifth Estate.
The film, made and distributed by Disney/Dreamworks, was chosen to kick off Toronto weeks after former government contractor Edward Snowden leaked U.S. surveillance data with the help of WikiLeaks and Assange.
"As we have seen in the Edward Snowden case, this is a story that continues to be central, and we have also seen that people of great intelligence and goodwill disagree," director Bill Condon told the Toronto audience.
Condon said The Fifth Estate was not a judgment about WikiLeaks or Assange, but a portrayal of a complex issue that raises more questions than answers about the struggle between transparency, privacy and the security implications.
"There is no takeaway or single right or wrong," Condon said. "I hope people walk away and go to dinner to talk about it."
The Fifth Estate is based on the book by Assange's once-trusted lieutenant, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who joined the Australian activist in 2007. The two worked to make the site for whistle-blowers one of the most powerful sources of information, culminating with the largest leak of official secrets in American history in 2010.
Condon said one of the challenges he faced was how to make the film compelling. Two guys at laptops, communicating by instant message, isn't exactly spellbinding.
The film, however, moves at a fast clip, and the pace of the movement of messages and information heightens the drama. Cumberbatch's Assange is rude, awkward and unkempt, but what most turns off his allies, including editors at big newspapers that publish information from WikiLeaks, is his disregard for people, like informants, whose lives might be endangered by the leaks of government cables.
Assange has been highly critical of the film, but Condon said he hacked an early version of the script and is ill-informed about the portrayal of him and WikiLeaks.
"He called us the anti-WikiLeaks movie," Condon said. "You will find that it is in no way anything but kind of supportive, kind of a celebration of the idea behind WikiLeaks."
In addition to The Fifth Estate, world premieres of note in Toronto include August: Osage County starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in a drama of a dysfunctional family, and Dallas Buyers Club, in which Matthew McConaughey plays an AIDS activist who smuggles treatment drugs from Mexico.
The story of a free man who is enslaved in 12 Years a Slave has its official premiere on Friday night in Toronto. But its first screening came last week in a surprise show at the Telluride Film Festival, where is drew critical acclaim and speculation about an Oscar nomination.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
- 2 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 3 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
- 4 News agency criticised for describing Amal Clooney as 'actor's wife' in coverage of human rights trial
- 5 David De Gea to Real Madrid: Real finally get their man with £29m bid for Manchester United goalkeeper
X Factor hopeful Mason Noise: 'How is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in the music business, let alone a judge?'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Online toy marathon to launch new film
Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet: Technician quits after social media row with actor's fans
Evian Christ cancels Reading festival appearance after being 'trapped in a cage' at Leeds by staff
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up