SIFF 2013: We Steal Secrets ***1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 1, 2013)

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For his timely political doc We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, director Alex Gibney sets out not only to construct a “people’s history” of the whistle-blowing website, but ambitiously aims to deconstruct the Sphinx that is founder Julian Assange.

As to the first goal, Gibney scores, on count two, not so much; Assange remains a bit of a cypher. Still, Assange is only half the equation here. The real heart and soul of the film is the story of Pvt. Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked 700,000 government documents and pieces of classified military information to the site (his court martial begins Monday; although you wouldn’t know it from watching CNN, who are otherwise abuzz with all their pre-game coverage of the Zimmerman trial).

While he was unable to interview Manning, Gibney weaves in transcripts of email exchanges Manning had with hacker Adrian Lamo to paint a very moving, human portrait of this young man who (like Assange) is hero to some, “traitor” to others. Regardless of where you stand on that issue, this is essential viewing and could the most important American film of 2013.

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