SXSW 2012: ‘Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies’ a fine primer on a well-publicized controversy

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Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies
Directed by Patrick Forbes
UK/Germany, 2011

Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies functions as a primer to a far more intricate and convoluted tale. If you’ve at all followed the controversy that’s been trailing Wikileaks like a spurned pup since its inception, you likely know much of the raw data on display in this doc. What makes this film worthwhile, though, are the fascinating interviews with the main players of this fiasco. As you may have assumed, the face time with Julian Assange is especially bewitching.

At the core of the film is a simple philosophical battle. Assange argues for the obliteration of secrecy altogether. The major figures behind the New York Times and The Guardian argue for responsible whistle-blowing. And Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former Wikileaks spokesperson, argues for Private Bradley Manning because nobody else will.

Given the initial purpose of Wikileaks, its current state is regrettable. Conversations about the organization almost always pivot on the question of its morality and, more specifically, the morality of its central figure. This film doesn’t do much to curb that trend, but it does highlight the absurdity of that conversation. Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies is essentially of string of interviews with very powerful white men discussing their role in the affair and why they were right. Forbes knows, and demonstrates, that this tale should be about a young private who allegedly leaked heaps upon heaps of secret information to a whistle-blowing website and was promptly imprisoned without trial.

Despite sort of unfairly stealing the show, Assange is an amazing presence. The film opens on him as he’s asked why he started the organization. His lengthy pause for thought is heartily insightful, and offers as much clarity about Assange as the answer itself. He is an odd figure, and this film does an admirable job of portraying him–as well as many members of the press–without passing judgement. Nobody comes off well in this movie, but Forbes is careful to let the audience figure that out for themselves.

– Emmet Duff

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