Citizenfour has won the Oscar for best documentary, for its director Laura Poitras, editor Mathilde Bonnefoy and producer Dirk Wilutzky.

Collecting the award, Poitras, flanked by journalist and collaborator Glenn Greenwald, said: “The disclosures of Edward Snowden don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. When the decisions that rule us are taken in secret we lose the power to control and govern ourselves.” Poitras thanked Edward Snowden for his “sacrifices”, and added: “I share this award with Glenn Greenwald and the many other journalists who are taking risks to expose the truth.”

The team were joined onstage by Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. In response to the news, Snowden himself wrote:

“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.”

Guardian defence correspondent (and Citizenfour star) Ewen MacAskill said:

“Congratulations to Laura Poitras. When she filmed Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and myself in Hong Kong, it never occurred to me she had something as ambitious as CitizenFour in mind.

I did not even give much thought to why she was filming: just assumed she wanted a record of events for some undisclosed reason, maybe a low-budget film to be used by privacy campaigners. It came as a surprise when I finally saw it, the sheer professionalism of it, and I had no doubt from that point she would win an Oscar.

Good news for Laura. Good news too for Snowden: he can treat the Oscar as one of his biggest endorsements yet.”

Citizenfour chronicles the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that burgeoned into the wider NSA spying scandal. The Guardian and the Washington Post simultaneously began publishing Snowden’s leaked information in June 2013, with both publications winning a Pulitzer prize in 2014 for Public Service journalism. The film’s title derives from the pseudonym Snowden used when he first anonymously contacted Poitras.

Citizenfour was the strong favourite in the documentary category, having taken a string of awards over the last few months, including best documentary at the Baftas, the DGA, and the National Society of Film Critics (the Golden Globes has no non-fiction award.)

Poitras has been Oscar-nominated before, in 2007 for her film My Country, My Country, about Iraqis living under US occupation. Citizenfour’s Oscar triumph completes a remarkable turnaround for Poitras, who was forced to edit the film in Berlin in case the FBI tried to seize the footage.

The Academy Awards are taking place at the Dolby theatre in Los Angeles and are being hosted by Gone Girl star Neil Patrick Harris.


Andrew Pulver

The GuardianTramp

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