Alex Gibney’s recent documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, currently playing at the New Zealand International Film Festival, is one of the most relevant documentaries of the year. The film is essentially a split narrative combining the tragic tale of Bradley Manning, with the hubris laden tale of Julian Assange as his own ego became intertwined with the powerful organisation that he was the self appointed face of.
Whilst the Manning story has been covered in multiple ways before, the Assange tale is what is really interesting about this documentary. What the film does very well is cut away the blowhard rhetoric surround Assange to present an even handed introduction to both him and the Wikileaks organisation before showing the problems as they became interchangeable with each other in the public’s perception. Assange is discussed by people that worked with him closely and by a series of academics, who paint an intimate portrait of a free information radical, driven by an uncompromising utopian view, that would ultimately lead him down the track of ‘noble cause corruption’. It isn’t a hatchet job - rather the film begs supporters to think separate Wikileaks itself from Assange and his cult of personality that have sadly become indistinguishable from one another.
The film is timely in the face of current world events, and its comprehensive content make for both gripping, but ultimately quite depressing viewing as there are no real winners in this story other than the US military. Despite this though anyone angry with the current status quo should use it as a call to arms, and heed the lessons from the film as we move forward in battling capitalism in the future.