When WikiLeaks became a household name, and the material it released caused shock waves around the world, numerous film-makers (veteran or would-be) rushed to buy rights to books and articles. It was difficult to keep track of the plans for docs, TV films and Hollywood productions (and I tried), including one involving Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal.
When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal problems mounted, alleged leaker Bradley Manning languished in pre-trial mode and the release of important documents slowed, one had to wonder how many of these films would come to fruition. But now some are finally on the horizon.
And Assange and his backers are not pleased.
Yesterday, speaking to the Oxford Forum via a video link from his now longtime home, holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, he denounced an upcoming Hollywood flick, which focuses on the early days of WikiLeaks and his relationship with Daniel Domscheit-Berg (who left the group in a huff).
The film, The Fifth Estate, is directed by Bill Condon (who did Dreamgirls among other films) and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange. It’s based on two books hostile to Assange, if not WikiLeaks: a memoir by Domscheit-Berg and a probe by David Leigh and Luke Harding of The Guardian. That’s the first photo from the film at left, showing the cinematic Assange and Domescheit-Berg.
Saying he’d read the script but not seen the movie, Assange said it was particularly false and “inflammatory” in suggesting Iran already has nuclear weapons. Condon issued a statement:
It may be decades before we understand the full impact of WikiLeaks and how it’s revolutionised the spread of information. So this film won’t claim any long view authority on its subject, or attempt any final judgment. We want to explore the complexities and challenges of transparency in the information age and, we hope, enliven and enrich the conversations WikiLeaks has already provoked.
Also yesterday, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman interviewed Alex Gibney (who won an Oscar for his Taxi to Dark Side and has directed many other fine docs) at Sundance on the upcoming film on WikiLeaks—and Assange and Bradley Manning—titled We Steal Secrets. She also solicited a critical response by 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.
Here’s a Daily Beast piece on Gibney’s views. Asked if Assange hates the doc, he replies, “Well, he already denounced the film on Twitter, even though he hasn’t seen it. I expect we’ll be hearing more denunciations in the future. I think a lot of this film is deeply sympathetic to Julian and his initial cause. I just think Julian got corrupted.”
See videos of the Gibney and Robinson interviews below: