Raindance: ‘Digital Dissidents’ Director on Capturing the Whistleblowers

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, is one of Cyril Tuschi’s interviewees

Raindance: 'Digital Dissidents' Director on Capturing the Whistleblowers
Courtesy of Cyril Tuschi

Cyril Tuschi’s second documentary “Digital Dissidents” explores the varied motives of whistleblowers who fight for transparency (and sometimes privacy) in our digital world. Tuschi dives into the lives of people who have revealed government corruption, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers. The interviews drive the 90-minute film and reveal details of the people who have been both celebrated and condemned for uncovering government secrets. “Digital Dissidents” is competing for best documentary at the Raindance Film Festival.

This is your second documentary. What was the process like the second time around?
It was totally different. My first film took five years of work. My second film took five months. I got more efficient in research, planning and post-production.

What did you know about cyber privacy before you started this project?
What? Cyber privacy? Never heard of it! If you mean surveillance and the need to protect your privacy — I also used [anonymity software] Tor and PGP [Pretty Good Privacy] when we were filming my latest film “Khodorkovsky” in Russia [about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an opponent of President Vladimir Putin].

You didn’t interview Edward Snowden personally. Did you originally plan to interview him, or did you always know he would be unavailable?
I never planned to film him, since Laura Poitras made “Citizenfour.” I wanted to focus more on the lesser-known whistleblowers.

Do you think whistleblowers are patriots or traitors?
Not all whistleblower have to be patriots — mostly they are more patriotic than their bosses and surely they are no traitors.

Has your opinion changed since completing this film?

What do you want viewers to take away from “Digital Dissidents”?
To shed a light on people who seemingly do illogical, impractical, non-economical things, people who dare something — and that the audience might understand their motivation better afterwards.