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I think we all went into the screening the other day with some idea of who is Edward Snowden and what is it he did. For a time period, it was difficult to avoid hearing his name or seeing his face anywhere. At school, I¬†discussed with teachers and peers the sheer scale of it all. At family gatherings I listened to ultraconservative uncles and aunts curse Obama and the government while quickly labeling Snowden an American hating traitor. All over the world, this was discussed and for a time period it was a hot topic which everyone seemed concerned over (how much was the government collecting? how were our individual rights and privacies being breached?). But it all seemed to quickly fade away. Even I am guilty of joking about it with friends over text or facebook messages “Hahaha, hi NSA! I swear I’m not an actual stripping drug kingpin. My friend and I are just joking. No need to keep this on file….” Of course it has come up repeatedly since that initial release and we are always reminded about everything Snowden did, but rarely does it effect our behaviors. I still engage with technology in the same ways I did before. I don’t filter myself for fear of government collection of my data, I don’t seem to put much thought into the possibility of having my information collected, I just continuously engage in an online community. It’s almost like I’ve slipped back int0 a chosen ignorance.

Citizen Four seems to be a reawakening of this initial release of knowledge. While we learned some specifics and a lot of vague complex information about the government programs in the wake of the Snowden leaks, all picked apart, made convoluted, and debated by politicians, reporters, citizen four really put all of it into perspective. This documentary was very well done and very paranoia-inducing. It gave us the perspective of a journalist witnessing these events unfold in the presence of Snowden. It made him human, a comical, charismatic joker with a taste for Selena Gomez music (apparently?). He was focussed on, shot in close ups and presented in stitched together scenes of his warm welcome, his joking, his concern for his family and partner, and his believe that he was doing the right thing. It showed what he was doing, why he was doing it, what he was exposing (which in the context of this video without a barrage of debating newscasters seemed a lot clearer and a lot more menacing), and the government’s reaction to the leak. It all seemed right out of a novel or a movie, as if the government really was a lying, spying entity gathering information on its citizens and oppressing those who would expose secrets. This is what makes the documentary of all this so shocking, because we get to see it all unfold like a movie on the screen in a linear fashion, seeing the lengths Snowden and his companions had to go for safety and the determination of the government to punish him and stop his friends from sharing any more, only in the context of everything happening being real, not some John Grisham novel.

Those behind the movie made a beautiful cinematic piece that captured the events that transpired in an exciting, personal way that helped me as an audience member relate more to what was occurring. I’m still not encrypting my emails or filtering what I say to my friends and family, but I’m more aware of what it is that is going on around me. Not everyone will have seen this and not everyone will be engaging in a discussion about the government’s actions and programs in a way that is constructive and well informed. Many will remain in the dark, like those interviewed by Last Week Tonight in New York who either didn’t know who Snowden was or thought he sold secrets or was Julian Assage. John Oliver joked about a means of educating people through thinking of this collection of data in the terms of dick picks, as the government when they are collecting data, will be collecting dick picks as well. The response to this was far more outraged than any of those responses to the concept of government surveillance (46% are mildly concerned or not at all concerned about government surveillance and capture). Now there is a big blockbuster movie being made called Snowden by Oliver Stone and starring the absolutely incredible Joseph Gord0n-Levitt, alongside¬†Shaileene Woodley and Zachary Quinto. The story we all know a little about will now be broadcast in a more accessible way to a much bigger audience (though I’m not sure how many people other than me really see Oliver Stone movies anymore). What will this do to the country’s understanding of the events that unfolded? Will they see this all through an even stronger lens of bias (as Citizen Four was indeed made with some politicly and socially biased intentions)? Will they see the truth? How much liberty will be taken with the story?