Snowden documentary wins Oscar

Laura Poitras won an Academy Award yesterday for her documentary Citizenfour about Edward Snowden that I reviewed favorably. In this photo from the awards ceremony last night, we see the three winners: producer Dirk Wilutzky (far left), Poitras next to him, and editor Mathilde Bonnefoy (far right). Glenn Greenwald and Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills (who now lives with him in Moscow most of the time) joined them on the stage

Poitras oscar

Here is Poitras’s acceptance speech.

Thank you so much to the Academy. I’d like to first thank the documentary community. It’s an incredible joy to work among people who support each other so deeply, risk so much, and do such incredible work. We don’t stand here alone. The work we do to (unveil?) what needs to be seen by the public is possible through the brave organizations that support us. We’d like to thank Radius, Participant, HBO, BritDoc, and the many, many, many organizations who had our back making this film.

The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. When the most important decisions being made affecting all of us are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control. Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage, and for the many other whistleblowers. And I share this with Glenn Greenwald and other journalists who are exposing truth.

Snowden himself issued a statement:

“When Laura Poitras asked me if she could film our encounters, I was extremely reluctant. I’m grateful that I allowed her to persuade me. The result is a brave and brilliant film that deserves the honour 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.”

Jeremy Scahill’s excellent documentary Dirty Wars was nominated last year but did not win. (See my review of his book and his film.)

I am not a big fan of these exercises in self-indulgence and self-congratulation where an industry gives awards to itself and did not bother to watch. The only benefit is if this recognition leads to greater viewing of Citizenfour and makes it easier for Poitras to get funding for more films.


  1. says

    At least the viewing public appears to be getting sick of the self-congratulation: ratings continue to drop.

    I would, seriously, love to have a big glammy show and invite various paint makers to come, get all dressed up, walk a red carpet, and have an MC and everything and we could watch fucking paint swatches dry. It would be a better show.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    The Academy is too old, too white, and too insulated from reality. The Oscars are meaningless, except as bait to try to hook more ticket sales for those films that are still showing after the ceremony.
    Also meaningless is the obsession with the box office receipts of movies, but some people really seem to need external validation in order to choose a movie to watch. I used to have a video store, and more than one customer wanted to know which movies were the highest renters so they could jump on the bandwagon. Or else they would ask me if I liked the movie, and often I already knew their tastes and mine did not correspond well, but they never wanted to hear that. They just wanted somebody to foist the responsibility onto.

  3. astrosmash says

    I think the larger point was missed: The very surreal fact that someone can win an academy award for positively portraying someone who is considered by the U.S. government to be a traitor is insane. The U.S. government needs to grant Snowden clemency IMMEDIATELY…This award is actually a very brave move on the part of the Academy (who otherwise…meh, if you get my meaning)…It’s a declaration that a very large faction of U.S. citizens stand against their government…It’s a declaration of a folk hero that the government better stop antagonizing if it doesn’t want to lose more what little respect it still has…Failure to do so on the part of the government is a clear and direct declaration of enmity against the American people…

  4. Mano Singham says


    You make a good point that the award should send a signal to the government. I am not sure, though, to what extent the voters in this category of the Oscars represent US citizens as a whole, since documentarians tend to be reality-based.

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