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27 October 2014. Updated.

26 October 2014


We viewed Laura Poitras' Edward Snowden film, CITIZENFOUR, today. The portions when Snowden is shown in full bloom are enthralling, these alone make the film a sorely needed antidote to sickly outpouring of shallow, abysmal coverage of media valorizing its story of Snowden.

Between the gripping opening scenes of Snowden in Hong Kong to the last surprise in Russia, after a year of Snowden's living dangerously, and his correspondents enjoying lucratie celebrity, a huge amount of padding is inserted, composed of recycled media covering itself and therewith duplicating much of what media is making of the story: its vainglorious role.

Barton Gellman and The Washington Post, the second principal Snowden outlet, get minimal attention, as does The New York Times, to which The Guardian off-loaded its Snowden stash (all these abide the slow- or no-drip releasing of documents). Many others involved in restricted distribution are ignored:

The oligarch underwriting role performed by Pierre Omidyar appears not all in CITIZENFOUR, though called "irresistable" by star Greenwald.

Why Poitras would waste so much of the film on media self-vaunting is worth pondering. Is it to shift accusation of vulnerable Snowden to privileged and protected journalism? That it decided what to disclose, not him, as he directed. Is the film performing a role in a legal strategy to defend against espionage charges lodged against Snowden, a strategy implied in the film but not disclosed -- political exculpation rather than impossibly legal exoneration, as in the film ACLU's Ben Wizener portends the Espionage Act prohibits.

Is the last scene of Greenwald scribbling messages to Snowden about another source -- Snowden reacting with uncharacteristically profane surprise, a couple of notes shown in full ("Ramstein Air Force Base" in a secret spy role; "1.2 million" targeted), then Greenwald mincing the notes -- more than a Hollywood tease of more to come?

Snowden wisely hints this source may be a commonplace counterspy sting of targeted Greenwald -- to no effect.

This last view of Snowden shows a fully mature man, deeply hollow-eyed, no longer excessively smiling, become fiercely independent by sustained solo threat, now suppressing anger, skepticism and suspicion, not the uninhibited 29-year-old first shown as hopeful, wishful, trusting and dependent.

Is the film a Poitras-coded portrayal of Snowden coming to grips with the deal he made with journalists, under pressure, having few options, claiming he did not know how media works, now fully understanding how media works and in no way satisfied with how the spotlight has turned from him to it, that he is a subsidiary player for commercial giants of publicity and commerce, that he may be sacrificed for blockbuster promotions, following Manning, Kiriakou and others to jail. Poitras does not say but suggests this in the offing.

Is this the message Poitras is sending with the film, the exploitation of Edward Snowden by the media and its legal and financial teams from Hong Kong to Russia? That the padding of media public service pretention is an expose of it sandwiched between Snowden's brave, honest and genuine public-spirited appearances.

Except for a few of the featured performers, all the others associated with the film and in the lengthy credits (below) are dismissable publicity-profit-seeking opportunists reaping safe, extremely rich rewards from Snowden's extraordinary risks, exile and destitution.

Beyond CITIZENFOUR, two even bigger vampire films are in the works to suck maximum blood from Snowden's withering carcass. No documents infused.

That is the takeaway of this reviewer, and for it Poitras and Snowden deserve high praise and the film seen for not merely exposing NSA global and domestic depredations but exposing those who have leaped to exploit the shallow, drip by drip exposure by over-celebrating themselves and releasing a small percentage of the full documents Snowden bestowed on the public for its own direct, unmediated battle for democracy.

CITIZENFOUR asks: can Snowden be freed of those he trusted, can we, can Poitras?


CITIZENFOUR credits compared to other in the Poitras trilogy
CITIZENFOUR The Oath My Country MyCountry
Laura Poitras Director

Principal Cast Credit

Edward Snowden Himself

Glenn Greenwald Himself

Cast Credit

Barack Obama Himself

Edward Snowden Himself

Ewen MacAskill Himself

Glenn Greenwald Himself

Jacob Appelbaum Himself

Jeremy Scahill Himself

Julian Assange Himself

Laura Poitras Herself

Lindsay Mills Herself

William Binney Himself

Producer Credit

Barbara Biemann Commissioning Editor: NDR

Brenda Coughlin Distribution Producer

Daniel Buresch Production Executive: NDR

David Menschel Executive Producer

Diane Weyermann Executive Producer

Dirk Wilutzky Producer

Jeff Skoll Executive Producer

Katy Scoggin Co-Producer

Kirsten Johnson Co-Producer

Laura Poitras Producer

Mathilde Bonnefoy Producer

Sara Bernstein Supervising Producer: HBO

Sheila Nevins Executive Producer

Sonja Scheider Commissioning Editor: BR

Steven Soderbergh Executive Producer

Tom Quinn Executive Producer

Production Companies

Praxis Films


Piffl Medien (2014) (Germany) (theatrical)

RADiUS-TWC (2014) (USA) (theatrical)

Britdoc Foundation (2014) (UK) (all media)

Channel 4 (2014) (UK) (TV)

HBO Documentary Films (2014) (USA) (TV)

Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) (2014) (Germany) (TV)

Other Companies

Britdoc Foundation (in co-production with)

Participant Media (in association with)

HBO Documentary Films (in association with)

Bertha Foundation, The (in co-production with)

Channel 4 (in co-production with)

Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) (in co-production with)

Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) (in co-production with)

Vital Projects Fund (funding)

Ford Foundation (funding)

Sundance Institute Documentary Fund (funding)

Deutscher Filmförderfonds (DFFF) (funding)

Cinereach (funding)

ARRI Film & TV Services (post-production sound services)

ARRI Film & TV Services (post-production facilities)

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (thanks)

Chaos Computer Club (thanks)

Cinescript Berlin (translation and transcription)

Creative Time (thanks)

Debian GNU / Linux (special thanks)

Der Spiegel (thanks)

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) (thanks)

First Look Media (thanks)

Freedom of the Press Foundation (thanks)

GNU Privacy Guard (special thanks)

Government Accountability Project (thanks)

Intercept (thanks)

O Globo (thanks)

Off-The-Record messaging (special thanks)

SecureDrop (special thanks)

SmithDehn (production legal)

Spitfire Strategies (thanks)

Tails (special thanks)

The Guardian (thanks)

Tor Project, The (special thanks)

TrueCrypt (special thanks)

Washington Post (thanks)

WikiLeaks (thanks)

Women Make Movies (fiscal sponsor)

Director / Producer
Laura Poitras

Editor / Co-Producer
Jonathan Oppenheim

Nasser Arrabyee
Aliza Kaplan

Executive Producers
David Menschel

Osvaldo Golijov

Kirsten Johnson
Laura Poitras

Abu Jandal A.K.A. Nasser Al-Bahri

And The Words Of
Salim Hamdan

Habeeb Al-Bahri
Turki Al Dakhil
Kim Ghattas
William Glaberson
Jeffrey D. Gordon
Hamdan Family
Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar
John Miller
Brian Mizer
Lawrence Morris
Carol Rosenberg
Michael Scheuer
Bob Simon
Ali Soufan
Charles Swift
Monica Villamizar
Robert Worth
Yemeni Youth

Project Advisors
Abdul Ghani Al-Iryani
Karen Greenberg

Legal Counsel
David Smallman

Editorial Advisor
Joe Bini

Courtroom Artist
Janet Hamlin

Sound Design
Damian Volpe

Still Photography Yemen
Khalid Al-Mahdi

Yemen Interpreter

Reading Of Salim Hamdan's Words
Mostafa Ali

Associate Producers
Robert Hatch-Miller
Katy Scoggin
Pandora Zolotor

Guantánamo Sound Recordists
Wellington Bowler
Sean O'Neill

Guantánamo Field Producer
Jennifer Filippazzo

Assistant Editors
Robert Hatch-Miller
Danielle Morgan

NYC Post-Production


Sound One

Sound Design
Warmblooded Productions

Sound Mixer
Dominic Tavella

Graphics and Animation
Amit Sethi

Smallman Law Pllc

Additional Legal
Wilmerhale, Llp

C&S International

Fiscal Sponsor
Women Make Movies


Music Composed By
Osvaldo Golijov

Dawn Upshaw

Todd Palmer

Alisa Weilerstein

Brooklyn Rider String Quartet
Jonathan Gandelsman, Violin
Nicholas Cords, Viola
Colin Jacobsen, Violin
Eric Jacobsen, Cello

"Ariadna en su Laberinto" (Ariadna in Her Labyrinth)

"Aiini Taqtiru" (My Eyes Weep)

From the album AYRE

Courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon

The Islamic Fundamentalist Audiocassette Collection
Al Arabiya, MBC
60 Minutes/CBS News
ABC News
The New York Times
AP Photo

Special Thanks

Hamdan Defense
Michael Berrigan
Steven David
Neal Katyal
Kimberlee Lindee
Joseph Mcmillan
Brian Mizer
Andrea Prasow
Harry Schneider
Charles Schmitz
Charles Swift

Hamdan Prosecution
Omar Ashmawy
Lawrence Morris
John Murphy
Bruce Pagel
Timothy Stone
Clayton Trivett Jr.

Presiding Judge
Keith Allred

Arrabyee Family
Lara Aryani
Stephanie Black
Rosie Bsheer
Liz Friedin
Marcela Gaviria
David Gelber
Nancy Gerstman
Ira Glass
Tim Golden
Suzanne Iasenza
Icrc Yemen Office

Al-Iryani Family
Erez Laufer
Cara Mertes
Flagg Miller
Salem Nasser
Josie Oppenheim
Adriana Pacheco
George Packer
Poitras Family
David Remes
Emily Russo
Julie Snyder
Ali Soufan
Clive Stafford Smith
Eddie Stern & Ayny
Corey Stoughton
This American Life
Jennifer Washburn
Diane Weyermann
Lawrence Wright

Funding Provided By

Vital Projects Fund, Inc.

Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program

Guggenheim Fellowship

Media Arts Fellowship, A Program of Tribeca Film Institute & Rockerfeller Foundation

Creative Capital

New York State Council On The Arts

Chicken & Egg Picture

s Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund

Produced In Association With CBC News Network

The Oath is a co-production of Praxis Films and the Independent Television Service, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)

Executive Producer For ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

In Association With American Documentary | POV

Executive Producer For POV
Simon Kilmurry

The Oath is a production of Praxis Films, which is solely responsible for its content.

Laura Poitras Director

Cast Credit

Aaron Castle Himself

Andre Remmers Himself

Carlos Valenzuela Himself

David Brancaccio Himself - Host

Dr. Riyadh Himself

Edward Robertson Himself

Edward Wong Himself

Kristopher Scarcliff Himself

María Hinojosa Herself

Peter Towndrow Himself

Renato Gonclaves Himself

Richard Armitage Himself

Scott Farren-Price Himself

Producer Credit

Aliza Kaplan Co-Producer

Anthony Chapman Executive Producer

Brenda Breslauer Producer

Bryan Myers Producer

Cara Mertes Executive Producer: P.O.V./American Documentary

Dan Logan Associate Producer

Gina Kim Host Producer

Jocelyn Glatzer Producer

John Siceloff Executive Producer

Karla Murphy Associate Producer

Laura Poitras Producer

Martha Spanninger Senior Supervising Producer

Na Eng Associate Producer

Peter Meryash Producer

Rosie Bsheer Associate Producer

Sally Jo Fifer Executive Producer: ITVS

Production Companies

Independent Television Service (ITVS)

Praxis Film Works


Zeitgeist Films (2006) (USA) (theatrical)

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) (2006) (USA) (TV)

Zeitgeist Films (2007) (USA) (DVD)

Other Companies

Alpha Cine Motion Pictures Laboratory (35 mm transfer) (as Alpha Cine Labs)

C & S International Insurance Brokers (insurance) (as C & S International)

DitlevFilms (title design)

Magno Sound and Video (post-production facilities) (as Magno Sound & Video)

Magno Sound and Video (title design) (as Magno Sound & Video)

Moses & Singer (legal council)

Post Works (post-production facilities)

Professional Sound Services (camera & sound rental)

Root IQ (web design)

Women Make Movies (fiscal sponsor)