In January 2013, Laura Poitras was a few years into preparing a documentary that would deal with abuse of power by the national security services in the United States—the intended closing part of her trilogy about post-9/11 America. Then she received a batch of coded emails from an anonymous source identifying himself only as “citizenfour.” 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 to Hong Kong with Guardian reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, 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 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.