CITIZENFOUR is the highly anticipated third part of Laura Poitras’s trilogy about post-9/11 America. Following My Country, My Country (2006) and The Oath (2010), which respectively dealt with the war in Iraq and the detention of suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, this third part was intended to deal with the abuse of power by the national security services in the United States.
Poitras had been working on the film for a few years already when, in January 2013, she received a batch of coded e-mails from an anonymous source identifying himself only as “Citizen Four.” He wrote that he had proof of large-scale illegal surveillance practices by the National Security Agency (NSA), in cooperation with a number of foreign security services. Five months later, Poitras flew with Guardian reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill to Hong Kong, where they filmed their conversations with the man who later became known to the world as Edward Snowden.
CITIZENFOUR is not only a detailed eyewitness account of these discussions and the atmosphere in Snowden’s hotel room, but it also shows the far-reaching consequences of his revelations and the reactions of the rest of the world. Above all, the film is a sinister documentary thriller about one of the most notorious scandals of the past decade, the depths of which are still not completely clear to this day.