Someone let a TV documentary loose among the SXSW feature docs! Fortunately it’s a pretty good movie. A bit arid and sparse, but good.

Making a nice pair with We Are Legion (the Anon doc), Wikileaks: Secrets & Lies is another documentary that breaks down a bit of recent history, even as the events and figures in question continue to develop and make news. In this case, Wikileaks takes a look at the secret-leaking organization headed by Australian hacker and activist whistle-blower Julian Assange, specifically the three-part release that saw an unprecedented leaking of secret government documents.

The narrative specifically follows the tenuous partnership between Wikileaks and three major news outlets that agreed to vet and selectively publish the information. Across three major dumps that covered the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as well United States foreign relation secrets, the publishers navigated a series of mistakes and brave actions that became increasingly complicated by Assange’s own dubious behavior.

Visually the doc is well-shot, but plain… don’t expect fancy infographics or slick montages as in many contemporary docs. Favoring straightforward storytelling and understandable structure, the doc is compelling nonetheless, and eventually begins to favor the old media perspective of the Wikileaks scenario by allowing the newspaper talking heads to lead the story. That said, Assange’s progressively tainted reputation necessitates this shift in sympathies, and reps from The NY Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and former Wikileaks members actually go a long way towards honoring Assange’s initial efforts, and the sadness that came with his meldown. It’s also important to mention that Assange is more than capable of doing justice to his own arguments, as his measured, articulate view of the world is not one that should be dismissed out of hand. This is especially as our governments and corporations grow increasingly powerful, despite the democratizing force of the internet. So one must ask: where do we draw the line of transparency?

The TV origins of Wikileaks: Secrets & Lies are clear, but this is a fairly definitive telling of one of the biggest stories of our time, and it earns a big screen on which to be told.

–Renn Brown

Wikileaks: Secrets & Lies Details:

Director(s): Patrick Forbes

Produced by Oxford Film and Television, Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies is Bafta winner Patrick Forbes’ seventy-six-minute documentary of the Wikileaks affair as told by the people involved: personal, moving and frequently hot tempered, it documents history in the making and establishes a new frontier for technology and journalism.

A definitive factual account of the Wikileaks affair, the film features the first major television interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.