Citizenfour, film review: A front-row seat for Edward Snowden's extraordinary revelations

(NC) Laura Poitras, 120 mins
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The Independent Culture

This extraordinary documentary pushes the kind of "Direct Cinema" patented by Robert Drew and Albert Maysles into a new dimension. Laura Poitras was the original confidante of the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

She films him in the cramped Hong Kong hotel room in which, hiding out from the world, he hands over the classified documents revealing the mass surveillance misdeeds of the National Security Agency to the journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill.

Snowden ("I go by Ed") comes across as a charismatic but very level-headed figure who has thought through his actions in the minutest detail. He is politely spoken, has a dry sense of humour and projects a sense of integrity. If he does seem a little paranoid, you can hardly blame him.

Poitras structures the film as if it is a version of All the President's Men for the digital age. The difference is that her Deep Throat is on camera and ready to be "nailed to the cross". The details about the extent of GCHQ and NSA snooping are old news but still shocking. The fascination of the documentary lies in the fact that Poitras was there with her camera at the crucial moments, when Snowden was sharing the information that would cause such convulsions all over the world.