Laura Poitras: Changing Minds One Documentary at a Time

Citizenfour, a documentary that follows Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing efforts, will be released this Friday in the USA. Snowden contacted the director Laura Poitras, she met him in Hong Kong, and along with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, she played a large part in revealing to the world the information Snowden had on US surveillance techniques.

Poitras is a brave and brilliant documentary filmmaker. She has produced and directed several eye-opening films and endangered herself in the process. Her 2006 documentary My Country, My Country for the series P.O.V, details life in Iraq under US occupation. She follows a Sunni Arab doctor who is preparing to run in the 2005 elections. In this film, Poitras gives the American audience the opportunity to see Iraq from the inside and the effect of the American troops’ presence. She provides a very unbiased view, avoiding both the temptation to hero-worship America for swooping in and the temptation to demonize the US for its interference. The documentary offers the audience a personal story and a personal crisis. It poses a reality to the viewer that they had perhaps not considered.

Poitras also directed The Oath which tells the stories of two men and their involvement with Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Here she sticks to her unbiased guns and offers views and context of Jihad—in contrast to much of Western media’s corrupted portrayal of many Islamic practices and beliefs. The documentary offers a varied critique of the US’s ‘war on terror’ and tries to give its watchers the facts so that they may make up their own minds rather than be influenced so wholeheartedly by Western news and media—which unfortunately has its own agenda.

Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden

But of course, to tell stories can be dangerous. Poitras’ work in Iraq had her on the ‘watch-list’ from 2006. In the eyes of the US government, her involvement with Snowden certainly proved them right. She played a key role in Snowden’s revelations and undoubtedly surprised herself when she became a character in her own film, Citizenfour.

Poitras seems to have handled the situation with an element of grace. She claims not to feel paranoid, but rather that she simply adopts common sense. While Poitras knows that her phones could be monitored at any time, residing in Berlin offers her a degree of both safety and privacy.

Poitras is the absolute queen of being a sensible risk taker, and that’s something I admire immensely. And, as somebody who gets particularly irate about certain newspapers writing utter rubbish about cultures and countries they do not understand, I applaud her unbiased approach.

To undercut anything intelligent I have said in this article I’d like to end with a quote from Disney’s Pocahontas.

We’ve all come here with anger in our hearts, but she comes with courage and understanding.”

Chief Powhatan was a wise dude and Laura Poitras is a wise woman.

Pictures sourced from / the


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