Posts Tagged ‘ We steal secrets:The story of Wikileaks ’

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013

 

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013

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Well that is it for another year then. The A-List stars have departed whilst the opening and closing galas provided a maelstrom of dramatic flourish, flamboyance and glamour to our usual grey days and the momentum of the event provided ceaseless conversations amongst the locals. Except none of the former really happened did it?

 In fact the whole event passed pretty much unnoticed to local residents- and even to me who was a participant- and if pushed for a comment many would even have failed to notice it was actually taking place. Matters weren’t even helped by the fact the weather was remarkably pleasant with sunshine days and warm balmy evenings being the norm. Compare and contrast with last year when it rained torrentially and incessantly.

 The ultimate disappointment though must lie in the choice of movies selected with few of the films making too much of an impression either way. If honest I must admit the best film I saw during the whole thing was the 1971 Richard Fleischer classic, shown as part of a retrospective, 10 Rillington Place starring a suitably creepy Richard Attenborough as serial killer John Christie. It was the only film among the many I attended that held the audience in its spell throughout with a tension which was palpable; a matter confirmed when at a crucial moment I tore my eyes away from the action to observe an almost trancelike state audience caught up in the drama. I witnessed nothing like this sort of effect at the many new films I attended.

Mind you this may be because I attended mainly press showings but everyone knows how cynical a group of film critics can be. I am not sure this still applies to the younger ones who appeared to be barely out of diapers but wore their miserabilist tendencies in plaid with carefully selected geek chic glasses.

 Of the new films premiered the best, in my opinion, were Svengali, The Great Hip Hop Hoax, Oh Boy, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks and a Russian offering, Betrayal. The latter I haven’t got around to reviewing yet but it is an Almodovar styled film with the vivid colours and fiery passions replaced with Soviet chill to disorientating effect. The plot is highly implausible and relies on the viewer’s suspension of belief, but somehow this works to its advantage as opposed to its detriment.

 The opening film Breathe In starring Guy Pearce and the patriotic, set in Glasgow, closer Not Another Happy Ending with Karen Gillan were slightly underwhelming if the truth be told. As were the opening and closing parties which followed if I am being even more honest. In fact the best party I attended during the twelve day duration down as the most memorable film festival of recent times it is also not the most forgettable was nothing to do with the film festival but was held in an empty art studio with a bunch of non celebrities who could show the organisers of these stilted industry affairs how it should be done

 On the plus side the event was still a step in the right direction away from the low key efforts of 2011 which abandoned all parties and celebrity attendances. It also had the best and most consistent weather of any Scottish festival in recent years and perhaps this onslaught of sunshine distracted from the event as who wants to sit in a darkened cinema when it is sunny outside. Particularly to a nation as deprived of vitamin D as us Scots are.

 Now that it is all over however I must say that the best summary I can offer is that although 2013 will not go!

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WE STEAL SECRETS:THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS

 

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks

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Surrounded in hype, recriminations , accusations and clouded truths, when the scandal surrounding Wikileaks- a website intent on revealing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of the twenty first century- and its founder, Julian Asssange, broke it was hard to decipher any semblance of the truth. With one faction claiming the documents which were leaked were in the interest of the public, the other denied this and counteracted the very same information placed the public, and whole countries, in severe danger.

The truth is hardly any clearer after watching this documentary by Academy Award winning director Alex Gibney, which admittedly falls on the side of Assange and his organisation, but what is clear that accusations of a smear campaign against Wikileaks and its founder are lent a considerable amount of gravitas whilst those who went out their way to destabilise their credibility-including some of the most powerful people in the world- are left looking rather suspect.

 The leading cast in this tale include the formerly named Assange- a blonde haired Australian hell bent on discovering the truth about the war in Iraq- a teenage hacker and Bradley Manning, a gender confused American soldier serving in Iraq with access to highly sensitive documents and footage. Without thinking of the consequences Manning shared this classified information with Wikileaks and to this day still languishes as a detainee in jail even though he has never actually had a trial convicting him of any specific crime.

 Assange on the other hand was briefly awarded rock star status when he leaked the contents of the documents on his site but this small victory was soon snatched from him when two accusations of rape in Sweden arose. These is where things get rather cloudy and off balance as the accusations of rape seem to come from two women who had consensual sex with Assange but one freaked out when the condom broke during the act whilst the other claimed he never used one. This led to claims he may have impregnated them or shared a S.T.D. and  a warrant was issued for his arrest. When he refused to take an HIV test the charges were immediately changed to rape and thus the conspiracy theories about a smear campaign began.

 At this juncture a media campaign to discredit Assange and Wikileaks-interestingly the Guardian and New York Times who shared the information he provided were absolved of any blame- began and in one of the films many incidences of black humour the phrase ‘he has blood on his hands ‘is trotted out ad infinitum via various major news stories around the globe as if to detract from the real issue at hand; war crimes being committed in Iraq.

These war crimes provide some of the most shocking images in the film and early on we are shown a helicopter attack on innocent civilians and Reuter journalists after one carrying a camera with a long lens is mistaken for a Militia with an Ak47. What is almost as shocking as the horror of this footage is the clearly audible laughter, sheer flippancy and derogatory remarks emanating from the attackers about the dead bodies they have left on the ground. Further footage showing innocent families and children being slaughtered-either through carelessness or incorrect intelligence- is equally unsettling and Assange’s claims that this is what the public need to know about the realities of war start to make a lot more sense than the counter argument that knowing and seeing such things places us all in greater danger.

 A fascinating and revealing insight into a recent scandal- Assange is still under house arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy-this documentary provides very few answers but it does raise a hell of a lot of questions.

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