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Laramie Movie Scope:

How Edward Snowden and journalists broke the mass surveillance story

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 18, 2015 -- This film follows whistle blower Edward Snowden and journalists who worked with him during and after breaking a huge story about out-of-control domestic surveillance operations. Winner of the Academy Award in 2015 for best documentary film, this was released to a few theaters in the fall of 2014 to qualify for the Oscars, but most people, like me, didn't get to see it until after it was released on video in August of 2015.

I finally saw this last night after the Albany County Public Library added it to their collection. Even the local video store did not have this as a rental. It was worth the wait. Edward Snowden has been demonized by the government, by various politicians and by the right wing media, but what he did was invaluable, and his disclosures led to legislation which helped to put some limits on what had become a runaway domestic spying operation in this country. Snowden is a much more important figure than Steve Jobs, who seems to have another movie made about him every month or so.

Although Snowden has been depicted by his detractors as a gutless, narcissistic traitor fleeing the law, the Edward Snowden I saw in this film is quite different. He is very intelligent and fully aware of the personal cost of his actions, and he takes great pains to prevent anyone else but himself from being punished for his crimes. The film shows many discussions between Snowden (in a Hong Kong hotel) talking about the documents he is disclosing, and how the information should be publicized in a responsible way.

Although Snowden is no writer, the way he answers reporters questions (mainly from Glenn Greenwald and another reporter from the Guardian) are very well formulated and they show a great depth of thought about the reasons for his actions and the consequences.

Snowden is not the only whistle blower in the film to spread alarm over the extent of spying on ordinary U.S. citizens, or the first. That honor goes to William Edward Binney, who worked for U.S. intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency for more than 30 years before quitting and sounding the alarm about domestic spying. Binney is shown sounding the alarm over what he calls unconstitutional surveillance before and after Snowden's revelations.

I was aware of some of this surveillance prior to Snowden. After I saw the film “Enemy of the State,” I did some research to find out how accurate that film was in its depiction of domestic spying (which quite frankly looks like science fiction) and I was astonished to find out that these capabilities shown in the film are real. Even so, the information in “Citizenfour” is chilling. This needs to stop. More politicians like Rand Paul need to step up. This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)