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Laura Poitras at PopTech, 2010
January 16, 1962 |
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Laura Poitras is an American documentary film director and producer. She resides in Berlin. She is a 2012 MacArthur Fellow and one of the initial supporters of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. According to Glenn Greenwald, Poitras and Greenwald are the only two people with full archives of the global surveillance disclosure initiated by the former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.
After finishing high school, Poitras moved to San Francisco to take classes at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied with experimental filmmaker Ernie Gehr. In 1992, Poitras moved to New York to pursue filmmaking. She graduated from The New School for Public Engagement in 1996.
Laura Poitras co-directed, produced, and shot her 2003 documentary, Flag Wars, about gentrification in Columbus, Ohio. It received a Peabody Award, Best Documentary at both the 2003 South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, and the Filmmaker Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The film also launched the 2003 PBS POV series. It was nominated for a 2004 Independent Spirit Award and a 2004 Emmy Award.
Poitras' other films include Oh say can you see... (2003) and Exact Fantasy (1995). Her 2006 film My Country, My Country about life for Iraqis under U.S. occupation was nominated for an Academy Award. Her 2010 film The Oath, about two Yemenis men caught up in America's War on Terror, won the "Excellence in Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary" at the 2010 Sundance film festival. The two films are part of a trilogy. The third part will focus on how the War on Terror increasingly focuses on Americans through surveillance, covert activities and attacks on whistleblowers.
On August 22, 2012 The New York Times published an Op-doc in a forum of short documentaries produced by independent filmmakers that was produced by Laura Poitras and entitled, The Program. It is preliminary work that will be included in a documentary planned for release in 2013 as the final part of the trilogy. The documentary is based on interviews with William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency, who became a whistleblower and described the details of the Stellar Wind project that he helped to design. He states that the program he worked on had been designed for foreign espionage, but was converted in 2001 to spying on citizens in the United States, prompting concerns by him and others that the actions were illegal and unconstitutional and that led to their disclosures. The subject implies that the facility being built at Bluffdale, Utah is a facility that is part of that domestic surveillance, intended for storage of massive amounts of data collected from a broad range of communications that may be mined readily for intelligence without warrants. Poitras reported that on October 29, 2012 the United States Supreme Court would hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of the amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that were used to authorize the creation of such facilities and justify such actions.
In 2013 Poitras was one of the initial three journalists to meet Edward Snowden in Hong Kong and to receive copies of the leaked NSA documents, and helped to produce stories exposing previously secret U.S. intelligence activities. She later worked with Jacob Appelbaum and writers and editors at Der Spiegel to cover disclosures about mass surveillance, particularly those relating to NSA activity in Germany.
In October 2013 Poitras joined with reporters Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill to establish an on-line investigative journalism publishing venture funded by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Omidyar's "concern about press freedoms in the US and around the world" sparked the idea for the new media outlet. The first publication from that group, a digital magazine called The Intercept, launched on 10 February, 2014. Poitras, Greenwald, and Scahill all serve as editors.
Laura Poitras is daughter of Patricia "Pat" Poitras and James "Jim" Poitras, founders of The Poitras Center for Affective Disorders Research at McGovern Institute for Brain Research. Her sisters are Christine Poitras, ESL teacher, and Jennifer Poitras, Disaster Response Planner and Consultant.
Poitras has been subject to monitoring by the US Government. After completing My Country, My Country, Poitras claims, "I've been placed on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) watch list" and to have been notified by airport security "that my 'threat rating' was the highest the Department of Homeland Security assigns".
Poitras says her work has been hampered by constant harassment by border agents during more than three dozen border crossings into and out of the United States. She has been detained for hours and interrogated and agents have seized her computer, cell phone and reporters notes and not returned them for weeks. Once she was threatened with being refused entry back into the United States. In response to a Glenn Greenwald article about this, a group of film directors started a petition to protest the government's actions against her. In April 2012 Poitras was interviewed about surveillance on Democracy Now! and called elected leaders' behavior "shameful."
In February 2010 Poitras won the "True Vision Award" at the True/False Film Festival. The award is for filmmakers whose work shows a dedication to the creative advancement of the art of nonfiction film making. In spring 2012 Poitras took an active part in the three-month exposition of Whitney Biennial exhibition of contemporary American art. On October 2, 2012, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that that Poitras was chosen as one of 23 MacArthur Fellows for 2012. The Electronic Frontier Foundation named her one of four recipients of its Pioneer Award in 2013. In 2013 Poitras has been awarded the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting together with Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill.
- "The inside story". The National. February 17, 2010. Archived from the original on February 19, 2010.
- "2012 MacArthur Foundation 'Genius Grant' Winners". 1 October 2012. AP. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
- Boadle, Anthony (August 7, 2013). "New U.S. spying revelations coming from Snowden leaks -journalist". Reuters UK. Retrieved August 7, 2013.
- Maass, Peter (August 18, 2013). "How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets". NYTimes. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
- "LAURA POITRAS: SECRET NO LONGER". Retrieved August 14, 2013.
- "The Oath Honored at the Sundance Film Festival". Beyond the Box. October 20, 2001. Archived from the original on February 19, 2010.
- Poitras, Laura, The Program, New York Times Op-Docs, August 22, 2012
- Edward Snowden Evolved From Gaming Geek to Conscientious Whistleblower
- John Lubbock (October 2013), Jacob Appelbaum's Utopia Vice: Motherboard
- Embassy Espionage: The NSA's Secret Spy Hub in Berlin Der Spiegel October 27, 2013
- Edward Snowden to broadcast Channel 4's alternative Christmas Day message | World news | theguardian.com
- Alternative Christmas Message - 4oD - Channel 4
- '"There is a War on Journalism": on NSA Leaks & New Investigative Reporting Venture', Democracy Now!, 5 December 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
- 'Pierre Omidyar commits $250m to new media venture with Glenn Greenwald', The Guardian, 16 October 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
- Russell, Jon (10 February 2014). "The Intercept, the first online publication from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, is now live". The Next Web. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
- Karagianis, Liz (Spring 2008). "Fulfilling a Dream". MIT Spectrum. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
- "My Country, My Country. Film Synopsis". PBS. Retrieved May 27, 2007.
- Glenn Greenwald, U.S. filmmaker repeatedly detained at border, Salon, April 8, 2012.
- Mike Flemming, Documentary Directors Protest Homeland Security Treatment Of Helmer Laura Poitras, Deadline.com, April 9, 2012.
- More Secrets on Growing State Surveillance: Exclusive Part 2 with NSA Whistleblower, Targeted Hacker, Democracy Now, video and transcript, April 23, 2012.
- Jonathon Braden (February 28, 2010). "Picturing a better vision". Columbia Tribune. Retrieved February 28, 2010.
- Roberta Smith (March 1, 2012). "A Survey of a Different Color 2012 Whitney Biennial". NY Times. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
- Felicia R. Lee (October 1, 2012). "Surprise Grants Transforming 23 More Lives". New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
- "Laura Poitras - MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved October 4, 2012.
- "EFF Pioneer Awards 2013". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
- "2013 GEORGE POLK AWARD WINNERS". Long Island University. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- Praxis Films which distributes Laura Poitras films
- Websites for Laura Poitras' films: My Country, My country, The Oath
- Detained in the US: Filmmaker Laura Poitras Held, Questioned Some 40 Times at US Airports, Democracy Now!, April 20, 2012.
- The Program, by Laura Poitras, New York Times, August 22, 2012.