In an op-ed at Newsweek, legal representatives of the anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks have accused filmmaker Laura Poitras of using material in her new film in a way that puts WikiLeaks and its staff at legal risk.
Poitras’ film, aptly titled “Risk,” is something of a character study of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but the organization’s attorneys say Poitras violated agreements regarding the film’s editing process and the use of certain footage of WikiLeaks staff.
The lawyers claim Poitras signed an agreement stipulating that the film would be edited outside of the United States, far away from the American government, but they say she failed to do that.
“By moving the editing location from Berlin to the U.S., Poitras has endangered our clients and reneged on written agreements with WikiLeaks that explicitly forbid her from editing the footage in the United States,” the lawyers said.
Poitras is perhaps best known for her well-received 2014 documentary “Citzenfour,” which captured the travails of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as he conferred with journalists in his Hong Kong hotel room.
The legal representatives also allege that the filmmaker used footage of particular subjects even after they expressly requested to be left out of the film:
Poitras has also violated her unambiguous promise to the subjects of the film that they would have an opportunity to review the film in advance and request changes, and that they could decline to appear if they or their lawyers felt that the movie put them at risk.
Had the filmmaker not agreed to these express conditions, WikiLeaks’ staff would not have allowed themselves to be filmed in the first place. Despite repeated requests, neither the subjects of the film nor their attorneys were granted a prior viewing of the film that Poitras intended to release in the U.S.
Prior to its initial U.S. release, seven of the participants submitted non-consent forms to the producers advising Poitras and her team that they did not want to appear in the film. Regardless, Poitras went ahead and released it.
Finally, the attorneys say that the film screened for Assange and his British legal counsel at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London is an entirely different edit from the final version shown in theaters, preventing Assange from being able to properly sign off on the film, per the agreement.
Poitras is said to have shifted the focus and tenor of the film in the final version, changing it from a generally sympathetic portrayal of WikiLeaks and its work to what the lawyers describe as an “ill-defined” critique of internet sexism.
The op-ed was penned by attorneys Margaret Ratner Kunstler, Deborah Hrbek, Renata Avila and Melinda Taylor.
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