by Antonio Cabello
Without the sense of rabid actuality or periodistic worth that carried that masterpiece of a documentary called Citizenfour (2014), but with the rigor that characterized her previous work, Laura Poitras takes on the controversial character of Julian Assange, as she already did with informer Edward Snowden, bodyguard Abu Jandal (The Oath, 2010) and Dr. Riyadh (My Country, My Country, 2006).
Presented at La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, Risk (2016) hasn’t enjoyed the media attention or the unanimous acceptance of Poitras’ previous work, like how Citizenfour managed to raise some pressing issues about the Obama administration, while winning Best Documentary at the Academy Awards.
With Risk, writer-director Poitras delivers a succint X-ray of the victories and defeats of tattle organisation WikiLeaks with a series of unedited videos and images compiled through keen documentary work over the past six years; the filmmaker has structured the material as a must-see decalogue that stretches all the way to the present time.
Throughout the whole journey that is his movie there is a distinct sense of pressure upon each member of the WikiLeaks organisation, and we appreciate the attention to detail that brings us closer to understanding the complexity behind international relations and ongoing conflicts between countries. Knowledge makes us into harsher critics, amplifying our gaze and providing a new, fresher lecture. In this sense, Risk is a necessary movie.
However not everything is praise for Risk. Even if we can overlook the movie’s absolute lack of objectivity – while the documentary work is in itself worthy journalism, the narrative with which it’s woven betrays a certain hypocrisy – we have to stop and criticize the movie for maintaining its distance from Julian Assange, the person who hides behind this entire network of cables and conspiracies that is WikiLeaks.
That is, here we have a movie that manages to capture the significance of an organisation such as WikiLeaks, yet doesn’t quite cobble together an insightful portrait of its founder; unlike the palpitating, intimate work Laura Poitras accomplished on the subject of Edward Snowden in her previous documentary.
Antonio Cabello / Writer (Jaén, Spain – 1993) Producer and editor for Fremantlemedia Spain on TV shows, he studied journalism and audiovisual communication at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. He also studied poetry, humanism and film criticism. Five years ago he founded Esencia Cine, for which he has covered the Cannes and San Sebastián film festivals. Life is time.