Alex Gibney’s much-anticipated film, We Steal Secrets: the Story of WikiLeaks, starts to hit theaters tomorrow and already it’s a media sensation. Gibney summed up the reaction for me last month: “My view, while biased, is: the response from people who’ve seen the film has been mainly positive and from those who haven’t, mainly negative.”
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, and several key allies, such as writer/filmmaker John Pilger, have long claimed they’ve seen a (what else?) “leaked” script but Gibney had some doubts about that. Yesterday via the official WikiLeaks Twitter feed they again denounced the film, saying they had seen the actual film and found it strewn with errors and also found it “trashy.” Gibney replied that the only leaked version was not the final cut.
Gibney long courted Assange for an interview and even flew to the UK for a six-hour chat with Julian—about the request. It broke down over what the director saw as Assange’s demands for some control over excerpts from any interview.
Coverage of the film in the US, after the February screening at Sundance, has been mostly good, Gibney has observed. “The people who don’t necessarily have an axe to grind are liking it,” he asserted. And he again declared strong support for Bradley Manning. (I should note that I wrote the first book about WikiLeaks and later the first book about Bradley Manning.) Here’s the trailer for the Gibney film, and much more below:
When WikiLeaks became a household name three years ago—the release of the “Collateral Murder” video from Iraq came on April 5, 2010—and the material it released caused shock waves around the world, numerous film operatives rushed to buy rights to books and articles. One of them was Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal.
Early this year Assange denounced a Hollywood flick when it started shooting—it focuses on the early days of WikiLeaks and his relationship with Daniel Domscheit-Berg (who left the group in a huff). It just finished shooting and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange. And Assange blasted Gibney’s upcoming doc—right down to its title.
At Sundance, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman interviewed Gibney (who won an Oscar for his Taxi to Dark Side and has directed many other fine docs, from Enron to Mea Maxima Culpa). She also solicited a critical response from Assange attorney Jennifer Robinson. Much of the debate was over how the film treats the Swedish legal case and the seriousness of the threat that Assange could end up extradited to the United States. Gibney told The Daily Beast, “I think a lot of this film is deeply sympathetic to Julian and his initial cause. I just think Julian got corrupted.”