“Thank you Edward Snowden and to the other whistleblowers who are exposing truth,” Poitras said.
“Citizenfour” won over a strong field that included “Finding Vivian Maier,” “Last Days of Vietnam,” “Virunga” and “The Salt of the Earth.”
Snowden himself applauded the win in a statement.
“When Laura Poitras asked me if she could film our encounters, I was extremely reluctant,” he wrote. “I’m grateful that I allowed her to persuade me. The result is a brave and brilliant film that deserves the honor and recognition it has received. My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”
The film has won every single documentary award during this season – Gotham Awards, Intl. Documentary Assn., BAFTA, DGA and the Spirits. It’s also delivered a fairly impressive $2.6 million for TWC-Radius in the U.S.
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Poitras met Snowden while working on a documentary about governmental surveillance in the post-9/11 era. She later began receiving emails from “citizenfour,” who wrote, “I am a senior government employee in the intelligence community. I hope you understand that contacting you was extremely high-risk.”
Poitras and reporter Glenn Greenwald journeyed to Hong Kong in early 2013 to meet with the person she had been corresponding with, who turned out to be Snowden. The duo met with Snowden for eight days before he ultimately handed over top-secret documents that revealed covert surveillance programs run by the NSA.
The film records that deed in real time, including the planning in the hotel room as to how and when they will unleash the bombshell revelations.
Poitras produced “Citizenfour” with Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky. Steven Soderbergh is one of the executive producers. Participant Media financed the film.
Oliver Stone began shooting a fictionalized version of the whistleblower’s story, “Snowden” on Friday in Munich and Open Road Films plans a Christmas release in the U.S. Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play the title role and Melissa Leo will portray Poitras.
Snowden was charged in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Justice with two counts of violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property, and his passport was revoked a week later by the U.S. Department of State. He was granted temporary asylum by Russia last year.