Citizenfour, the chilling documentary by Laura Poitras about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden won the Oscar for Best Documentary feature tonight at the 87th Academy Awards. The docu beat out four other nominees, Finding Vivian Maier, Last Days In Vietnam, The Salt Of The Earth and Virunga. It was an expected win for the film which previously walked away with DGA and BAFTA honors, along with New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, the Gotham Independent Film Award, Film Independent Spirit Award and Satellite Award.
As Deadline’s Jeremy Gerard noted previously, Poitras identifies Citizenfour as the final chapter in a trilogy that follows her previous Oscar-nominated My Country, My Country, about the Iraq war, and The Oath, about Guantánamo — celebrated investigations of wayward American policy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The film unfolds in real time as Poitras and Guardian colleague Glenn Greenwald, working on a long-term project about government surveillance, were contacted online by a mysterious source calling himself “Citizenfour.” She and Greenwald flew to Hong Kong to meet the source, who turned out to be Snowden.
Backstage producer Mathilde Bonnefoy said “We focused on the person Snowden. We tried with our film to show him, to give him a voice. His motives were pure. He’s a young man who decided to end his life as he knew it; he was ready to die for what he did. Maybe (Citizenfour) moves people, galvanizes people to want to make a personal change. After screenings people come up to us really moved.”
“I would add, like in terms of, like, what does it mean in terms of this kind of surveillance,” said Poitras. “I mean, all we need to do is look at the Civil Rights Movement and what the FBI did in terms of spying on Martin Luther King and other activists. I mean, this is what happens when this kind of spying happens and there’s no oversight of it. So I think we should be very concerned with the democracy.”