In mid 2013 the name Edward Snowden became a household name to almost any individual on the planet that was within arm’s reach of a digital media device. For those of you that don’t know the name Edward Snowden, Citizen Four will quickly dive into what you think may be from George Orwell’s 1984 or the plot of Tom Clancy storyline.
Citizen Four begins with an encrypted email exchange between Edward Snowden and the film’s director Laura Poitras; Snowden talk under the alias “CITIZENFOUR”. After an exchange of messages over several months Snowden flies to Hong Kong to share critical information about the NSA. He knows telling his story will change his life forever.
Citizen Four is a documentary that gives an authentication to many revelations that Snowden has revealed regarding the U.S. abuse of surveillance operations on civilian privacy in United States and abroad. What authenticates this documentary is the way the documentary is filmed. It is filmed in an up tempo style. There is a a sense of urgency. Snowden, Guardian newspaper journalists Glenn Greenwald and James MacAskill, along with Poitras are concerned they could be surprised with CIA knocking down the door at moment . This means there are off the shoulder camera shots and pans across the room, which is rare for documentary interviews. The unbalanced camera shots and casual conversations indicate there are no second takes; it is one take and that is it. This creates a genuine documentary as the technical “imperfections” appear to be least of group’s worries.
Laura Poitras’s documentary was brought to life with her ability to capture the real-life moments and the insight into Snowden as well the events leading up to his Amnesty. Small insignificant occurrences such as reoccurring fire alarms that became a nuisance to group were one major topic as well as Snowden’s moments of paranoia. In one instance he would hide under a blanket to ensure webcams were not capturing him through CIA data recognition software. These moments ranged in theme. Sometimes humorous, often intriguing, and occasionally there was tension. The secret encrypted chats between Snowden and the others featured regularly throughout the film.
Citizen Four is a documentary that needs to be watched regardless of whether an individual is left or right wing. The film not only tackles the tip of the ice-berg of what could be the information ages new approach for espionage and data collection but it also looks at the consequences of one mans actions for exposing the truth of injustice against his own citizens.