Edward Snowden’s Movie Mentors

March 5, 2018 § Leave a comment

The idea of a lone individual confronting a hostile and powerful institution positively drips with dramatic potential. It’s no wonder that cinema and its makers have been long attracted to these kinds of characters, if the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains list is in any way representative, at least with regards to American cinema. Now, place this lone, dissenting individual within and around the institution that they choose to confront and the drama positively ignites, fuelled by gallons of guilt and betrayal and inner turmoil. It’s the kind of combination that has drawn award-winning performances from the likes of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Julia Roberts and Rachel Weisz, all four playing whistleblowers of varying shades, some real, some fictional.

Well, this fall, under the direction of biopic enthusiast Oliver Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt will himself join the modest but rousing ‘whistleblower canon’ as he plays former CIA analyst Edward Snowden, currently in exile in Russia for leaking classified NSA documents in 2013. It’s worth noting that, in Laura Poitras’ Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour (2014), Edward Snowden repeatedly expresses his fervent hope that the content of his disclosures will not play second fiddle to the story of his person. Needless to say, Snowden‘s wishes will be tossed a little to the side when Stone’s Snowden opens in mid-September. Yet, naïve as his desire for relative anonymity may seem, I suspect that Mr Snowden appreciates – deep down – that there is no revelation, no matter how important, that will completely eclipse mass curiosity regarding the events and experiences that led to his earth-rattling decision to…reveal.

Moreover, I find it hard to imagine that a clued-in, sociopolitically conscious American male in his late twenties (at the time of the leaks) had never seen or heard of The InsiderSerpico or All The President’s Men, or at the very least the actual individuals and events on which those films are based. Is it not entirely possible that scenes, quotes and images from these and other films passed through his mind as he contemplated his future actions and their potential repercussions? This video is a brief imagining of this process, as Edward Snowden, holed-up in a Hong Kong hotel room prepares himself for The Passion of the Whistleblower/Watchdog/Traitor/Patriot, with a little help from some films.

* originally published in Fandor Keyframe in 2016

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