SFF Review: We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks

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Media headlines have been flooded with stories revolving around ‘Wikileaks’ since the organisations beginnings in 2006. We Steal Secrets The Story of Wikileaks tells the story not just of Julian Assange, but of his fellow founders and an online relationship that resulted  in the leak of hundreds of thousands of US classified documents.

For someone who was not well versed in the entire Wikileaks saga other than the odd headlines in the media, Alex Gibney’s ‘We Steal Secrets’ was not only an educating documentary but an enthralling tale of secrecy and betrayal.

The documentary tracks the humble beginnings of the group of Wikileaks founders up until present day, with all the media uproar in between. Not only are we given insights into the founders of this controversial endeavour but we are also exposed to the online relationship between Bradley Manning, the US soldier who leaked classified military documents to Wikileaks, and his online friend, Adrian Lamo who exposed Manning’s actions to the US government.

Manning and Lamo’s online conversations flash before you onscreen, they serve as an intriguing collection of personal struggles and depict Manning’s social isolation over the course of his military career. For an individual who is never interviewed onscreen, you come away with a strong sense of his character through various devices.  This intriguing look into one man’s struggle with not only his personal hardships but his contemplation of doing what he felt was right while betraying his country, elevates the storytelling in a documentary which otherwise may have fell flat.

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The focus on Julian Assange, himself, is less of a compelling story as we have come to know a lot of his actions through the media, which are thoroughly recounted in the documentary. Rather, the more interesting aspect to Assange’s story is the personal footage of Assange around the time of releasing the classified documents, the organisations total lack of preparedness of something of this volume is exposed.

The more chilling side to this documentary is the footage (which is online to view: WARNING! GRAPHIC VIOLENCE) of US military attacking unarmed civilians when mistaking one of the journalists camera’s for an RPG.  The dialogue from the US soldiers involved in this act is the most disturbing element, treating the action like a video game. Wikileaks may have exposed this particular footage but the documentary makes it known that these types of videos from the choppers are swapped like trading cards among soldiers.

Gibney impresses with an extensive knowledge of the Wikileaks timeline including all parties responsible for one of the world’s biggest media junctures in history. The documentary appears to have an unbiased approach to a subject that almost forces one to choose a side. We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks is a tale of betrayal in many senses of the word.

★★★

Showing at the Sydney Film Festival Wednesday June 12th and Saturday June 15th.

Head here for tickets.

Words by Dan

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