We watch a lot of documentaries over here, but few have been as striking to me as this trio of stories directed by Laura Poitras.
I had heard and seen interviews with Poitras before, but had not seen any of her work until last Friday evening when we viewed Citizenfour. It was so gripping that, even though we didn't get home until 1am, I stayed awake watching her first two post-9/11 films, My Country, My Country and The Oath, back-to-back.
My Country, My Country focuses on Dr. Riyadh, an Iraqi doctor and Sunni candidate in the January 2005 elections. Although he is deeply opposed to the American occupation of Iraq, he believes in and works toward the establishment of a democracy in his country. This is an intimate portrait of his family life in the midst of war leading up to the elections.
In The Oath, Osama bin Laden's former bodyguard Abu Jandal gives a glimpse of his new life in Yemen as a taxi driver. He expresses remorse for inadvertently implicating his brother-in-law, Salim Hamdan, as a member of al Qaeda to the FBI in the days following 9/11. Hamdan was merely bin Laden's chauffeur; he had never taken the oath of allegiance to al Qaeda, never participated in a terrorist act, and was never entrusted with military secrets, yet he was held in solitary confinement at Guantanamo Bay. After the Supreme Court case Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld ended with a 5-3 decision in Hamdan's favor, Congress passed a controversial new law that retroactively allowed the military trial to proceed, and he was found guilty of "providing material support for terrorism".
Poitras had been working on a piece about government surveillance for two years when she was contacted anonymously by "CITIZENFOUR", a person who claimed to have evidence of indiscriminate data collection by the National Security Administration. "CITIZENFOUR", who turned out to be high-level data analyst Edward Snowden, secretly arranged to meet with Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald in Hong Kong to spend a week filming interviews and breaking this story to the world.
I am grateful for these journalists who lay everything on the line, down to their personal safety, just to share information they deem too important to be kept secret. These are powerful stories that lie in stark contrast to the information we receive from mainstream media. Please support these journalists in their work!
"BE A FILTER, NOT A SPONGE."
--The Perks of Being a Wallflower