We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

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We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
We Steal Secrets - The Story of WikiLeaks.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alex Gibney
Produced by Alex Gibney
Marc Shmuger
Alexis Bloom
Written by Alex Gibney
Starring Julian Assange, Heather Brooke
Music by Will Bates
Cinematography Maryse Alberti
Edited by Andy Grieve
Production
company
Jigsaw Productions
Global Produce
Distributed by Focus World
Release dates
  • January 21, 2013 (2013-01-21) (Sundance)[1]
Running time 130 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $457,517[3][4]

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is a 2013 American independent documentary film about the organization started by Julian Assange, and people involved in the collection and distribution of secret information and media by whistleblowers. It covers a period of several decades, and includes considerable background material.

Synopsis[edit]

The 1989 WANK worm attack on NASA computers, originally thought to threaten the Galileo spacecraft, is depicted as the work of Australian hackers, including Assange. The founding of Wikileaks in 2006 is followed by coverage of several key events: its 2009–2010 leaks about the Icelandic financial collapse, Swiss banking tax evasion, Kenyan government corruption, toxic-waste dumping, Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning's communications with Adrian Lamo, uploads to Wikileaks of the Iraq and Afghanistan war documents, diplomatic cables, and video, exposure to the FBI by Lamo, and the accusations of sexual assault made against Assange. Interview subjects include Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Heather Brooke, James Ball, Donald Bostom, Nick Davies, Mark Davis, Jason Edwards, Michael Hayden, Adrian Lamo, J. William Leonard, Gavin MacFadyen, Smári McCarthy, Iain Overton, and Vaughan Smith.[5]

Production[edit]

Assange did not participate in the production, so previously recorded interviews were used.[6] Manning was also unavailable.[7] John Young and Deborah Natsios of Cryptome contributed contacts and research material, but after lengthy negotiations, ultimately declined to be interviewed for the film.[8] About 35 minutes of chat animations, headline effects, and other visual effects were designed and rendered by Framestore in New York.[9]

Release[edit]

The film previewed in December 2012,[10] and debuted January 21, 2013 at the Sundance Film Festival.[1] It was scheduled to be released May 24, 2013 in New York and Los Angeles, and widely in June.[11][12]

Reception[edit]

We Steal Secrets has been widely praised by film reviewers, with film review site Rotten Tomatoes noting that 95% of critics have reviewed the film positively.[13] Nonetheless it has been criticized by journalists and professors including Chris Hedges,[14] Alexa O'Brien,[15] and Robert Manne[16] who was interviewed in the documentary.

Hollywood Reporter writer David Rooney found the film to be a "tremendously fascinating story told with probing insight and complexity".[17] David Edelstein of New York Magazine wrote that the film is a "twisty, probing, altogether enthralling movie," adding that it is "a documentary with the overflowing texture of fiction." [18] Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who calls the film "riveting and revelatory," notes that the director "lines up an A-list of experts, observers, cohorts, and adversaries, tracing how Assange's and Manning's worlds collide - virtually, and violently - and how a noble quest for transparency and truth turned into a tale of conspiracy and paranoia."[19]

Several reviewers have noted that despite the film's strengths, some flaws remain. In the UK Guardian, Jeremy Kay gave the film 3 of 5 stars, asserting that, although the film explored facts and themes thoroughly and thoughtfully, and provided "insightful commentary" from government, media, and WikiLeaks insiders, the film revealed little about Assange, who remained unavailable to be interviewed by the director. Kay wrote, "It's probably too soon for a meaningful perspective on the WikiLeaks saga."[6] In Variety, Peter Debruge found the film "dramatically lacking" a central core conflict, especially when compared with Gibney's previous work. Like Kay in The Guardian, Debruge found Manning's story the most compelling part of the film.[5]

We Steal Secrets was among five films nominated for the 2013 International Documentary Association ABC News Videosource Award.[20]

Criticism[edit]

Robert Manne, who was interviewed in the film, considered it to be a "superficially impressive but ultimately myopic film". He detailed his criticism in The Monthly.[16] Based on this article Manne and Gibney had a written debate.[21]

In his Truthdig review, journalist Chris Hedges called the film "agitprop for the security and surveillance state," adding that it "dutifully peddles the state’s contention that WikiLeaks is not a legitimate publisher and that Chelsea Manning, who passed half a million classified Pentagon and State Department documents to WikiLeaks, is not a legitimate whistle-blower."[14] Salon reporter Andrew O'Hehir claimed that many of Hedges's statements about the film are patently false, and that his "alarming accusations and peculiar misreadings of the film" are "an attempt to attack Gibney’s integrity and sabotage his reputation."[22]

WikiLeaks published a transcript of the film, annotated with comments, asserted to be corrections, by WikiLeaks.[23][24] Director Gibney responded that the transcript was incomplete, lacked Private Manning's words, and was from an unreleased, incomplete version of the film.[25] Later, Gibney published his own annotated version of the WikiLeaks transcript, responding to the criticisms and assertions made by Assange and his supporters.[26][27] According to the film's executive producer Jemima Khan, We Steal Secrets was "denounced before seeing" by Assange,[28] who tweeted "an unethical and biased title in the context of pending criminal trials. It is the prosecution’s claim and it is false."[29] Khan asserted the title was based on a quote in the film "from Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA, who told Gibney that the US government was in the business of 'stealing secrets' from other countries".[28]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks". Sundance Film Festival. 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  2. ^ "We Steal Secrets – The Story Of WikiLeaks(15)". British Board of Film Classification. May 13, 2013. 
  3. ^ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=westealsecrets.htm
  4. ^ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=intl&id=westealsecrets.htm
  5. ^ a b Debruge, Peter (January 28, 2013). "Film Reviews:Sundance:We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (Documentary)". Variety. Archived from the original on March 1, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Kay, Jeremy (January 23, 2013). "Sundance film festival 2013: We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks". Guardian (UK). 
  7. ^ Kaufman, Anthony (January 22, 2013). "We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks". ScreenDaily.com. 
  8. ^ "WikiLeaks-Jigsaw: We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks log". Cryptome. January 2013. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Work:We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks". Framestore. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  10. ^ Cieply, Michael (December 19, 2012). "'We Steal Secrets' Is First of WikiLeaks Films". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ "We Steal Secrets will be released May 24". Jigsaw Productions. February 25, 2013. Retrieved March 2, 2013
  12. ^ McNary, Dave (February 22, 2013). "Gibney's WikiLeaks doc gets release date". Variety.
  13. ^ "We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (2013)". RottenTomatoes.com. Retrieved October 21, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Hedges, Chris (June 2, 2013). "'We Steal Secrets': State Agitprop". Truthdig. 
  15. ^ O'Brien, Alexa (May 25, 2013). "A review of Alex Gibney's 'We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks'". Alexaobrien.com. 
  16. ^ a b Manne, Robert (July 2013). "We Steal Secrets: Alex Gibney, WikiLeaks & Julian Assange". The Monthly (91). Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  17. ^ Rooney, David (January 23, 2013). "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  18. ^ Edelstein, David (May 19, 2013). "Why the Whistle Blows: We Steal Secrets explains how Julian Assanges are made". New York magazine. 
  19. ^ Rea, Steven (June 7, 2013). "'We Steal Secrets': Fascinating, real-life WikiLeaks thriller". Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  20. ^ Lewis, Hilary (October 29, 2013). "'We Steal Secrets,' 'Blackfish,' ESPN's '30 for 30' Among International Documentary Association Award Nominees". Hollywood Reporter. 
  21. ^ Manne, Robert (July 1, 2013). "We Steal Secrets: A response from Alex Gibney". The Monthly. 
  22. ^ O'Hehir, Andrew (June 11, 2013). "Is Alex Gibney’s WikiLeaks film "state agitprop"?". Salon.com. 
  23. ^ "WikiLeaks releases transcript of critical US film". Inquirer.net. Philippines. Agence France-Presse. May 25, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Annotated Transcript of "We Steal Secrets" by Alex Gibney". WikiLeaks. May 24, 2013. 
  25. ^ Zakarin, Jordan (May 25, 2013). "Alex Gibney Blasts WikiLeaks, Accuses Group Of 'Selectively Editing' Transcript Of His Film". BuzzFeed. 
  26. ^ Kilday, Gregg (November 19, 2013). "Alex Gibney Fires Back at Julian Assange: 'People Are Finally Seeing the Darker Side' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  27. ^ WeStealSecrets (November 16, 2013). "The WikiLeaks Organization's Annotated Transcript, with Response from the Filmmakers". AmazonAWS.com. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  28. ^ a b Khan, Jemima (February 6, 2013). "Jemima Khan on Julian Assange: how the Wikileaks founder alienated his allies". New Statesman. 
  29. ^ WikiLeaks (January 21, 2013). "'We Steal Secrets': an unethical... ". Twitter.com. Retrieved March 2, 2013.

External links[edit]