Film Review: RISK (USA 2017) ***

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rick.jpgThe story of WikiLeak’s editor-in-chief Julian Assange as seen by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras.

Director: Laura Poitras
Writer: Laura Poitras (narration)
Stars: Julian Assange, Sarah Harrison, Jacob Appelbaum

Review by Gilbert Seah

One might remember the name – Laura Poitras. She was the one who accompanied Edward Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow when he was in exile, while making the comprehensive doc Oscar Winning CITIZENFOUR that educated the world on the world’s most famous NSA whistleblower. Poitras returns to her roots, dealing again with what she knows best – making docs on whistleblowers or the like. Her new subject is an equally wanted man by the FBI, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Julian is from Norfolk, England.

As with documentary subjects, the subject has to be larger than life, more than a normal person. In a surprise interview with singer/activist Lady Gaga at the embassy, Assange’s answer to one of her questions sums up the man. “Let’s not pretend for a moment I’m a normal person.”

The film begins with his call to the top brass in the U.S. , Julian wishing to speak personally with Hilary Clinton. His famous quote on the phone, Julian Assange: We don’t have a problem, you have a problem. Of course the U.S. authorities do not believe him, and the film documents the escalation of how Julian became one of America’s most wanted men.

As a result since the summer of 2012, Assange has been living at Ecuador’s London Embassy, having received asylum following sexual assault allegations in Sweden – offences Assange denies committing. Going to Sweden would also make him eligible for extradition to the U.S.

One of the most interesting things about documentaries is that the documentarist can never be 100% sure of the film’s end outcome. The same can be said for RISK. Her subject says that he never foresaw the events happening the way they did, and she herself was concerned with the film’s ending. The most important fact is that the doc would highly compromise Julian’s safety.

The film also detours with the side subject of Private Manning who was prosecuted by the U.S. and finally sentenced to more than 140 years of prison.

RISK, as in her other films, incites the anger of the audience at the U.S. authorities especially the FBI, a favourite target. The silly excuse of terrorist protection is again given as an excuse to compromise the privacy of the public. But the case is that they lie and do not reveal how much they have already violated citizen’s rights. The doc is good to explain that unless one is in their radar, they cannot do much with the data that they have – a case of too much data and too little manpower.

RISK ties in with Poitras other doc CITIZENFOUR with Sbowden on display in this film as well.

Because of the film’s nature and subject, it is at times all over the place, as Julian runs from one safe haven to another. The film also feels like an espionage thriller – only that this is the real thing. A fascinating documentary that should be seen!



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