At Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, Laura Poitras’ Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour won the award for Best Documentary Feature. To the US government, Edward Snowden is still a fugitive. Last night, at Hollywood’s glitziest celebration, he was heralded as a hero. And today, many in the US will get their first chance to decide for themselves.
Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage,” Laura Poitras, the director of “Citizenfour,” said as she accepted the Oscar for best documentary. Neil Patrick Harris, the award show’s host, noted that Snowden couldn’t be there “for some treason.” Treason isn’t one of the crimes Snowden has been charged with—the government wants to prosecute him under the Espionage Act—but both the praise and the joke point to why this Snowden Oscar mattered. What he did was useful, and dangerous.
Citizenfour, which saw wide release last fall, offers an inside look at the first week of the Snowden leaks. Filmmaker Poitras was first contacted by Snowden about the NSA’s surveillance activities in January 2013. By May, she had flown out to Hong Kong to conduct her first on-camera interviews with the whistleblower. Her second set of interviews were done with Glenn Greenwald in Russia later that year. Though plenty was left on the cutting room floor, the movie earned a number of awards on its way to the Oscars, including a BAFTA for Best Documentary.
The movie will get its broadcast premiere today, February 23, when it will be shown on HBO. And for UK readers, Channel 4 will show the film on Wednesday evening. Check your local listings for the time and channel near you.