Julian Assange had given filmmaker Laura Poitras unprecedented access for over five years, and she had hundreds of hours of footage in her possession. But last summer, the WikiLeaks co-founder started to have second thoughts. “Presently, the film is a severe threat to my freedom and I’m forced to treat it accordingly,” he texted her.
Now we know why.
Poitras’ new documentary, “Risk” — following up on her Oscar-winning “CitizenFour,” on Edward Snowden — provides perhaps the most unvarnished, intimate look into the persistence, smarts, self-righteousness, and misogyny of the man who, despite being holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for nearly five years, has earned the ire of the most powerful governments on Earth.
It’s actually the second version of the film, the first having screened at Cannes in May of 2016. Reviews of the original described it as a sympathetic portrayal of Assange and WikiLeaks work in general, but then came the reports of sexual misconduct by an Assange confidante and a rock star in the hacker space, Jacob Applebaum, whom Poitras had been romantically involved with after the shooting of the film. Poitras then felt obligated to further probe the culture of misogyny that’s infiltrated the hacker community and that Assange has perpetuated.