Last week, Alex Gibney, the tireless Academy Award–winning director of more than a dozen important documentaries (from Taxi to the Dark Side to the current film about Lance Armstrong) came to my town with his recent film about WikiLeaks, We Steal Secrets. You may recall that Julian Assange strongly and repeatedly slammed the film—even last week the WikiLeaks official Twitter feed had urged people to stay away from this single screening in Nyack.
Onstage after the screening Gibney revealed that his team was finally going to respond to WikiLeaks‘s famous “annotation” of his film last May with their own “annotation of their annotation.” As he has charged before, Gibney said that WikiLeaks had not received a “leaked script” back then but rather someone had taped the audio of his film at a festival screening and transcribed it later. So it was missing a major part of the film, he said—the many moments where the words of Bradley/Chelsea Manning from the Lamo chat logs are typed on the screen, without narration.
Now his team has come out with its full “annotation.” The entire document can be found here. It’s massive and color-coded. WikiLeaks has responded quickly on Twitter by calling the document “dishonest” and “not only citationless, but 6 months out of date.”
Since the Assange-annotated version of the screenplay first appeared, it has been updated, and it now refers to sections of the film that were missing when it was first posted. In creating his own annotation, though, Gibney decided to use Assange’s original post, since that original version had been widely circulated.
Gibney admits that the WikiLeaks critique no doubt played a strong role in contributing to his heavily promoted film’s disappointing showing at the box office.
While Gibney first dismissed Assange and WikiLeaks’ attacks on his film, he now believes it did have an affect on the film’s box-office performance. Released by Focus Features in May, it grossed just $166,243, never playing in more than 24 theaters. “It was more effective than I thought,” Gibney said. “He caused preemptively a lot of people not to see it, which when you think about it is kind of ironic. Instead of saying, ‘Go see this film and then read my commentary,’ it was, ‘Don’t see this film.’ Not exactly the transparency agenda.”
Greg Mitchell on WikiLeaks’s broadsides against Alex Gibney’s film.