Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour”, which captures whistleblower Edward Snowden’s NSA surveillance leak unfolding in real time, won the best documentary feature Oscar at the 87th Academy awards.
“Citizenfour” was the code name that Snowden used to contact Poitras through an encrypted e-mail before going public with his revelations.
Jennifer Aniston and David Oyelowo presented Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky. Poitras thanked the Academy and the documentary community while accepting the award.
“The disclosures that Edward Snowden revealed don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to also our democracy. When the most important decisions affecting all of us are being made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control. Thank you to Edward Snowden, to his courage and many other whistleblowers,” Poitras said in her speech.
Snowden’s revelations about the massive wiretapping practices by NSA and other US agencies shook the world and he eventually had to flee his birth country and is currently in Russia on asylum.
The director spent eight days with Snowden and two others
investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian intelligence reporter Ewen MacAskill—in a Hong Kong hotel as they documented the leaks.
Other nominees in this category included John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s “Finding Vivian Maier”, Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester’s “Last Days in Vietnam”, Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier’s “The Salt of the Earth” and “Virunga” by Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara.
The film was a frontrunner in the category. Poitras had earned an Oscar nomination for her 2006 documentary “My Country, My Country” that dealt with the US occupation of Iraq. It was her first film in a trilogy on the post 9/11 America.
Her second documentary “My Oath” revolved around Abu Jandal, a taxi driver in San’a, Yemen who had worked as a bodyguard to Osama bin Laden for four years, and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who worked for bin Laden as his driver in Afghanistan. The two were captured and sent to Guantanamo Bay.
Before being contacted by Snowden, Poitras was already working on a documentary about domestic monitoring being done in the US following the 9/11 terror attacks.