By Tench Phillips
“How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all’.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
The traditional power structures – be it in the halls of Congress, the boardrooms of the fossil fuel industry, or the enclaves of university administrators – are busy building walls to keep the wrong kind of people out. These walls are being constructed along our southern border with Mexico, around our Green Zone embassy in Baghdad, to ghettoize Palestinians in Gaza and The West Bank, and to protect the privileged in gated communities throughout the world.
But not all walls are concrete. Security firewalls have been built in cyberspace by governments to keep their citizens out – and to keep them ignorant of the abuses and illegalities perpetrated by the enormous national security state. But these walls are now shaking and cracking as a result of a few brave whistleblowers who had special access while working inside the security state but refused to follow the nefarious policies that threaten our democratic civil liberties. Joined by journalists and activists, these truth tellers have exposed the secrets and lies for all to see.
Citizenfour works as brilliant agitprop and reality theater as filmmaker Laura Poitras follows Snowden’s trajectory from Hong Kong to Moscow as he leaks his revelations and state secrets to the press and then must hastily react to the vengeful wrath of the state in order to keep his freedom. His intelligence, idealism, and integrity are substantiated in the film by his words and deeds. Many a skeptic who had previously sided with the state have changed their positions after experiencing this very personal encounter with Snowden.
And now The Academy Awards Show has shed more light on the dark heart of the American empire. By awarding Citizenfour as the year’s Best Documentary, Academy members have in fact honored Edward Snowden, a fugitive of the state. The Academy hasn’t taken such an adversarial position to government power since the days of Hollywood ‘communist blacklists’ or since the last days of The Vietnam War.
Viewers were awed with the surreal spectacle of a stage full of expatriates and political enemies of the state receiving top honors from the industry: director Laura Poitras who now lives in Berlin, journalist and producer Glen Greenwald who lives in Brazil, and even Snowden’s girlfriend who has now joined him in Moscow. No longer pariahs, they were all being gratefully acknowledged by Hollywood’s elite.
These accolades will now make it a bit more difficult for the Obama administration, the media, and the military-industrial-surveillance complex to demonize Snowden and his actions. For the time being they must pretend to ignore him just as they have with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who received political asylum and remains in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for going on three years.
Corporate Media is complicit with the state in crafting propaganda and disinformation. That’s why the mission of independent media is so important. And in this case it’s not to let the American public forget about whistleblowers who have sacrificed their own liberties for the greater good. These issues have been made more visible by such independent media as Democracy Now! and The Intercept, by progressive web news aggregators, and by investigative filmmakers/journalists featured at the Naro Cinema. In the upcoming Wednesday night ‘New Non-Fiction Film’ series, we will be featuring some noteworthy groundbreaking investigations.
Note: Citizenfour premiered last fall at the Naro and is now available for viewing on HBO where it should find a receptive audience – and then later on the shelves of Naro Video.
Upcoming Film Events at The Naro Cinema
SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY
“We live in a country that doesn’t like to credit any of its radical movements” states Susan Brownmiller in director Mary Dore’s incisive portrait of the rise of feminism in the late 1960s. All but forgotten, the fiery movement has been rekindled through archival footage that traces the development of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and its many sister groups, and the collective brainstorm that produced the groundbreaking book “Our Bodies, Ourselves”. A score of these brave souls turn up for fresh interviews: Rita Mae Brown, Ellen Willis, Fran Beal, Judith Arcana, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and many more, dishing truth and priceless anecdotes about what it felt like to change the world — and how tough it was to do so. And as the film makes clear, the fight it ignited for reproductive rights, pay equality, and childcare continues to rage to this day. Shows Wed, March 25 with The ODU Women’s Center.
MONK WITH A CAMERA
The life and spiritual quest of Nicholas Vreeland is a unique one. The son of a United States Ambassador, grandson of legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, and a photographer by trade, Nicky left his privileged life behind to follow his true calling. He moved to India, cutting his ties with society, photography, and his pleasure-filled world, to live in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery with no running water or electricity. There he would spend the next 14 years studying to become a monk, and later become the presiding Abbot of the monastery in Dharamsala. Nicky would eventually go back to the worldly pursuit of photography and even have his photo collection exhibited in a gallery in NYC in order to help his fellow monks rebuild their monastery. Shows Wed, April 1 with speaker and discussion.
Before the country was broken up in the 1990s, the Soviet Union had the most successful dynasty in sports history – the Red Army hockey team. Filmmaker Gabe Polsky tells the extraordinary human story of team captain Slava Fetisov – and the friendships and betrayals which led to his transformation from national hero to political enemy. The film examines how sports mirror social and cultural movements and parallels the rise and fall of the Red Army team with the Soviet Union. Produced by Werner Herzog and directed by Gabe Polsky. In Russian with subtitles and English. Shows Wednesday, April 8 with speakers and discussion.
THE HUNTING GROUND
Over the next year, over 100,000 women will be sexually assaulted on college campuses. From the filmmakers of the game changing film about sexual assault in the military, The Invisible War, comes a startling expose of rape crimes on US campuses, their institutional cover-ups, and the devastating toll that they take on students and their families. Weaving together first person testimonies, the film follows the shattered lives of several undergraduate assault survivors from UVA and other prestigious universities as they attempt to pursue – despite incredible push back, harassment and traumatic aftermath – both their education and societal justice. Shows Wed, April 15 with speakers and discussion.
MERCHANTS OF DOUBT
Inspired by the acclaimed book, Merchants of Doubt takes audiences on a satirical and illuminating journey into the dark heart of the American propaganda machine. Documentarian Robert Kenner (Food Inc) lifts the curtain on a secretive group of charismatic, silver-tongued pundits-for-hire who are used by corporate media as scientific authorities. But their real purpose is to spread maximum confusion about well-studied public threats ranging from toxic chemicals to pharmaceuticals to climate change. Date to be announced.
New York City Ballet, under the artistic direction of Peter Martins, boasts a roster of more than 90 elite dancers and a repertory of works by many of the greatest choreographers in the history of the art form. When 25-year-old NYCB dancer Justin Peck begins to emerge as a promising young choreographer, he is commissioned to create a new ballet for the Company’s 2013 Winter Season. With unprecedented access to an elite world, the film follows Peck as he collaborates with musicians, lighting designers, costume designers and his fellow dancers to create Paz de la Jolla, NYCB’s 422nd new ballet. Date to be announced.
THE WRECKING CREW
Behind headliners like Frank Sinatra, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, Mamas and Poppas, and The Monkees – the unheralded musicians of The Wrecking Crew created the beats and melodies of the great pop hits of the ‘60s. Directed by the son of legendary Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, this vibrant, moving portrait pays tribute to the golden age of the “West Coast Sound” and its secret star-making machine. Date to be announced.