Laura Poitras is one of the most highly regarded and respected documentary film makers working today. She’s also one of the most hard-working. No stranger to controversy, her last film about Edward Snowdon, Citizenfour, won her an Academy Award. Along with My Country, My Country and The Oath, it was the third film in her 9/11 trilogy. She actually began shooting her latest film, Risk, before Citizenfour. It’s a portrait of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Risk captures Assange and the Wikileaks team, including Sarah Harrison and Jacob Appelbaum, beginning in 2010 after the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents regarding the war in Iraq. Things become strained following sexual misconduct allegations against Assange in Sweden, and his attempts to avoid extradition, before eventually seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.
Filmed in verité style, and augmented by occasional interview with Assange and a voiceover by Poitras, Risk allows the camera to tell the story. This wouldn’t be an issue if Poitras stayed independent from the team, but we learn that this isn’t the case. Especially in light of later revelations. Assange is clearly repugnant, and there’s a stench of misogyny within the organisation. As events unravel, Risk is an interesting portrait of a contentious figure, but it becomes completely bogged down in an ethical quagmire.
Risk is out in cinemas, and on demand, on 30 June.