Citizenfour @ The Ross

Edward Snowden, Citizenfour

Edward Snowden, Citizenfour

My dad cautioned me to always watch what I say; my mom warned me, “anything you don’t want told, don’t tell it, and never ever put anything in writing! That piece of paper could be used against you.” Dad never owned a cell phone; mom had one but never used it – not once. The landline–a green Trimline model with a rotary dial–still hangs in the kitchen. You’ll get a busy signal if you call when anyone is on the phone; there is no call waiting. Dad used to say, “If I’m on the phone, I can’t talk to anybody else!” There is no voice message system. Mom would say, “If you call and I don’t answer I’m not at home! Call back!” Neither parent worked on a computer.

After screening Citizenfour, the newest documentary by Laura Poitras, it took every fiber of my being to keep me from tossing out both my computer and smartphone and begin a retreat to the bygone technological era my parents enjoyed! The film charts the discovery of post-911 surveillance by the NSA and other entities of intelligence. ‘Citizenfour’ sends covert e-mails to Poitras and, later, Poitras along with Glenn Greenwald, an attorney and columnist from The Guardian, fly to Hong Kong to meet with Citizenfour at the Mira Hotel who turns out to be Edward Snowden, the whistleblower.

With camera in hand, Poitras unfolds the story in the intimacy of his hotel room, as Snowden, from his hotel bed dressed in a white t-shirt and jeans, narrates how he came to his discoveries. We’re in that hotel room for a long time, and the camera creates a claustrophobic feeling to such an extent, that after it was over, I couldn’t wait to get outside and breathe in the fresh cold Nebraska air! Snowden’s revelation of the web of networks that are involved to accommodate the cross-currents of information is mindboggling. The general premise is this: We are being watched. Period. Privacy is fast beginning non-existent as our conversations, text, voice, and e-mail messages are being monitored. If we know that our every movement is being monitored, then we would be hard-pressed to say what we really feel! We’ll have to start communicating in codes. Snowden believes, “We are building the biggest weapon for oppression in the history of mankind.”

So take heed! Watch what you say! Anything you don’t want told, don’t tell it!

CitizenFour plays through December 18 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

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