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Risk (2016)

TV-MA | | Documentary | 12 May 2017 (USA)
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The story of WikiLeak's editor-in-chief Julian Assange as seen by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras.

Director:

Laura Poitras

Writer:

Laura Poitras (narration)
4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Julian Assange ... Himself
Sarah Harrison ... Herself
Jacob Appelbaum ... Himself
Joseph Farrell Joseph Farrell ... Himself
Renata Avila ... Herself - Lawyer
Jennifer Robinson ... Herself - Lawyer
Erinn Clark Erinn Clark ... Herself - Tor Project developer
Laura Poitras ... Herself (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ana Alban Ana Alban ... Herself - Ecuadorian ambassador
Christine Assange Christine Assange ... Herself - Julian's mother
Louis Bladel ... Himself - FBI counterintelligence (as Special Agent Louis Bladel)
Hillary Clinton ... Herself (archive footage)
Amal Clooney ... Herself - Lawyer
James Comey ... Himself (archive footage)
Anderson Cooper ... Himself (archive sound)
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Storyline

Filmed over six years, Risk (2016) is a character study that collides with a high stakes election year and its controversial aftermath. Cornered in a tiny building for half a decade, Julian Assange is undeterred even as the legal jeopardy he faces threatens to undermine the organization he leads and fracture the movement he inspired. Capturing this story, director Laura Poitras finds herself caught between the motives and contradictions of Assange and his inner circle. Written by Real Art Ways

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

TV-MA | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »

Country:

Germany | USA

Language:

English | Arabic | Spanish | German

Release Date:

12 May 2017 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Asylum See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$76,327, 5 May 2017, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$197,621, 16 June 2017
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The WikiLeaks lawyers Margaret Ratner Kunstler, Deborah Hrbek, Renata Avila and Melinda Taylor published an 'opinion piece' in Newsweek on May 17, 2017; WikiLeaks announced on the same day on Twitter that they may sue Laura Poitras: "We are lawyers for WikiLeaks. We are speaking out because we believe that Laura Poitras's film Risk (2016), released in U.S. theaters on May 5 this year, places our clients in legal jeopardy. (...) Our first issue with "Risk" is that the film was edited in New York, where the raw footage can more easily be seized by the U.S. government. By moving the editing location from Berlin to the U.S., Poitras has endangered our clients and reneged on written agreements with WikiLeaks that explicitly forbid her from editing the footage in the United States. (...) Poitras has also violated her unambiguous promise to the subjects of the film that they would have an opportunity to review the film in advance and request changes, and that they could decline to appear if they or their lawyers felt that the movie put them at risk. Had the filmmaker not agreed to these express conditions, WikiLeaks' staff would not have allowed themselves to be filmed in the first place. Despite repeated requests, neither the subjects of the film nor their attorneys were granted a prior viewing of the film that Poitras intended to release in the U.S.. When, along with the general public, we were finally able to view "Risk", we were dismayed to discover that the film released in theaters is a different version, not only from that which premiered at Cannes the year before, but also from the version screened for Julian Assange and his UK counsel at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The film viewed in the Embassy just one month prior to its U.S. release was shorn of all narration and omitted numerous new scenes, significantly changing its tenor. That the 'real' film contained these elements was concealed, preventing Assange from exercising his contractual rights. Prior to its initial U.S. release, seven of the participants submitted non-consent forms to the producers advising Poitras and her team that they did not want to appear in the film. Regardless, Poitras went ahead and released it. (...) To convince the audience of her point about the prevalence of sexism, Poitras has marginalized and demeaned a number of women who work for WikiLeaks, choosing instead to give men most of the airtime and leaving scenes depicting the significant contributions of the women WikiLeaks journalists on the cutting room floor. In their place, we now see an intense focus on women taking instructions and throwing off adoring looks. Sarah Harrison, for example, a brilliant journalist and winner of the Willy Brandt prize for "exceptional political courage," who at considerable personal risk helped Edward Snowden obtain political asylum, and who was accurately portrayed as having a central role in WikiLeaks work in the Cannes version, is now depicted as little more than a minion. Exactly what caused this pivot is not entirely clear. (...) The reason for the shift seems to be contained in the newly added voiceover, in which Poitras divulges that she was involved in an intimate relationship with one of the film's primary subjects, award-winning journalist Jacob Appelbaum. Appelbaum appears prominently in Poitras' Citizenfour (2014) as well as in "Risk". Although he does not work for WikiLeaks, Poitras conflates WikiLeaks with the organization he did work for, Tor, and makes him a central focus of the current version of "Risk". The Cannes premiere of "Risk" portrayed Appelbaum in a flattering light and Poitras did not disclose the nature of their relationship at that time. (...) Poitras was criticized after Cannes for appearing to be overly sympathetic to WikiLeaks. Instead of providing us with a more objective portrayal of her subject matter, she has re-framed her story to turn "Risk" into a film by Laura Poitras about Laura Poitras; a rather late coming-of-age story about the filmmaker discovering that there is sexism in her social and professional circles. Instead of a documentary about the abuse of state power and WikiLeaks' important role in exposing it, the emphasis of the film is now to highlight hotly disputed claims about an ex-boyfriend. We have to ask: Why choose this moment in history, when First Amendment and other fundamental rights are under attack, to undermine the credibility of an organization dedicated to government transparency and freedom of the press? (...) "Risk" might win attention for Poitras by pandering to tabloid narratives about its subjects, but it has done a great disservice to her fellow documentarians, and has profoundly betrayed her friends, her colleagues and her journalistic integrity." See more »

Quotes

Lady Gaga: [to Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy] It's like you're in college - where do you sleep?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Breakfast: Episode dated 2 July 2017 (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

 
the game of a certain "Garden" world domination
16 May 2017 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

In Risk, Laura Poitras, who in 2013 got called specifically by Edward Snowden to be there to document the moment he decided to release the information on how the government was mass-collecting data and spying on the US public at large, she puts her attention on Julian Assange. She actually started filming years before, around the time when Assange was first dealing with the fall-out of the rape allegations (still going on to this day, or at least the one that hasn't expired - what's going on with that, we don't know by the film's end, one can assume it's still pending). She originally screened a version at Cannes in 2016, but because of the banana-animal-crackers-WTF train that was the election, and Assange's role in (arguably) affecting a great deal of the outcome for voters concerned about the leaked DNC emails, she had to update it to reflect that outcome.

So this promises to be a rather expansive look at this man and his times, and I suppose in a way it is. There are also some gaps; the movie jumps from when Assange gets into the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK via asylum (where, by the way, he has a personal trainer guy to help him, uh, stay in shape while not able to go outside, yes this is seen) to (briefly) a bit about Snowden and how one of Assange's lawyers got involved, and then it goes right to 2016. I wish we could've seen what happened, if only briefly, in those few years. Was nothing of consequence done by Wikileaks in that time? To an outsider, it might appear so, or at least in the shadow of people like Snowden and Manning perhaps Assange didn't have much to do while in exile... until those DNC emails, of course.

At times this is interesting, but it lacks the narrative focus and suspense of Citizenfour. Then again comparing to other Assange movies, or at least one documentary, I think it's not necessarily that I *must* learn something new about the man, but I still consider We Steal Secrets, the Gibney doc from 2013, to have a more comprehensive *story* about this man (not to mention the focus on Manning, who is almost a footnote here). It gets a little better in the third act, after we're done seeing what Assange was doing in those heady years of 2010 to 2012, once it gets into 2016, but that also feels too short and we don't get enough from Assange to see where his head was at when it came to the release of the DNC emails.

And I get what Poitras is trying to do here, and it's admirable that it's not the same thing as that we might get in a talking-heads Gibney approach; we're seeing process unfold as far as how Assange talks to his lawyers and associates; how he gets his message across to a spokesperson when talking about an info dump on Syrian military matters; how the news-people comment. But at the same time I'm not sure if there is an engaging through-line; with Citizenfour, to go back to that again, if you can get a really strong emotion going through your film (like in that one, total intensity and suspense of the moment), you can get by showing those small moments going on when not much seems to be happening. With Risk, it's... Lady Gaga now is going to do a (somewhat) shallow interview with Assange where she's halfway engaged with him and we get to see Assange with one of his people in the, uh, woods and he's paranoid about other people listening in.

And... yeah, it's a series of things, with a more compelling character, Jacob Applebaum, popping up sometimes as the man behind "Tor" and who, most interestingly, has a relationship off-screen with Poitras that ends with him being sexually abusive to one of her friends(?!) Wow, where's that movie? Come to think of it, will there be a third movie about a hacker? Maybe the real piece of work Applebaum - followed by an Avengers like team up with Assange and Snowden? As far as showing the cult-like world that Julian Assange has created for himself goes, the depiction of that is captivating. But there's not enough *there* there, if you get my meaning. I wanted a little more of *some* sense of a side she was taking, even if she wanted to keep ambiguity.


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