'Fifth Estate' exposes WikiLeaks in Toronto film festival debut

By Mary Milliken

TORONTO (Reuters) - "The Fifth Estate," an unlikely thriller that chronicles the emergence of anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and its enigmatic founder Julian Assange, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday.

English actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Assange, called the debut at Toronto the "perfect marriage" of a festival, known for its popular participation, and a film, about what he called "people journalism."

The festival is also considered a harbinger of the awards season. Films that have fared well in Toronto, like "Slumdog Millionaire," have gone on to win best picture Oscars.

Some 366 films, including 146 world premieres, will screen over 11 days. Transparency and secrecy in the Internet age have emerged as prevalent themes in the program, led by "The Fifth Estate."

The film, made and distributed by Disney/Dreamworks, was chosen to kick off Toronto weeks after former government contractor Edward Snowden leaked U.S. surveillance data with the help of WikiLeaks and Assange.

"As we have seen in the Edward Snowden case, this is a story that continues to be central, and we have also seen that people of great intelligence and goodwill disagree," director Bill Condon told the Toronto audience.

Condon said "The Fifth Estate" was not a judgment about WikiLeaks or Assange, but a portrayal of a complex issue that raises more questions than answers about the struggle between transparency, privacy and the security implications.

"There is no takeaway or single right or wrong," Condon told Reuters. "I hope people walk away and go to dinner to talk about it."

ASSANGE BALKS

"The Fifth Estate" is based on the book by Assange's once-trusted lieutenant, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who joined the Australian activist in 2007. The two worked to make the site for whistle-blowers one of the most powerful sources of information, culminating with the largest leak of official secrets in American history in 2010.

Condon said one of the challenges he faced was how to make the film compelling. Two guys at laptops, communicating by instant message, isn't exactly spellbinding.

The film, however, moves at a fast clip, and the pace of the movement of messages and information heightens the drama. Cumberbatch's Assange is rude, awkward and unkempt, but what most turns off his allies, including editors at big newspapers that publish information from WikiLeaks, is his disregard for people, like informants, whose lives might be endangered by the leaks of government cables.

Assange has been highly critical of the film, but Condon said he hacked an early version of the script and is ill-informed about the portrayal of him and WikiLeaks.

"He called us the anti-WikiLeaks movie," Condon said. "You will find that it is in no way anything but kind of supportive, kind of a celebration of the idea behind WikiLeaks."

In addition to "The Fifth Estate," world premieres of note in Toronto include "August: Osage County" starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in a drama of a dysfunctional family, and "Dallas Buyers Club," in which Matthew McConaughey plays an AIDS activist who smuggles treatment drugs from Mexico.

The story of a free man who is enslaved in "12 Years a Slave" has its official premiere on Friday night in Toronto. But its first screening came last week in a surprise show at the Telluride Film Festival, where is drew critical acclaim and speculation about an Oscar nomination.

(Additional reporting by Sharon Reich; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

Latest News

  • Madhuri, Shriram Nene now Aquaguard goodwill ambassadors

    Mumbai, April 1 (IANS) Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit Nene and her husband Shriram Nene have been roped in by Eureka Forbes, a pioneer in the water purification systems market, as the goodwill ambassadors for Aquaguard for a five-year term. …

  • All decks cleared for 'Komban'

    Madurai, April 1 (IANS) The Madras High Court bench here on Wednesday refused to pass an interim injunction restraining the makers of actor Karthi-starrer Tamil rural actioner "Komban" from releasing the film in cinemas. Justices S. Tamilvanan and V.S. Ravi turned down a petition filed by Puthiya Tamilagam president K. Krishnasamy seeking a stay on the film's release, claiming it's based on a clash between two castes and could possibly affect the law and order situation in the state. …

  • Ekta Kapoor to turn 'maha judge' for 'Nach Baliye 7'?

    Mumbai, April 1 (IANS) After a long search for a fourth judge for "Nach Baliye 7", producer Ekta Kapoor might herself step into the chair to complete the quartet of judges for the forthcoming dance reality TV show. Bollywood beauties Vidya Balan and Kareena Kapoor Khan were also approached for the spot, but nothing concrete is said to have come out of the talks so far. Other than judges, "MasterChef India 4" judge Ranveer Brar is also expected to join the contestants with his wife Pallavi. …

  • Sonakshi enjoying learning martial arts

    Mumbai, April 1 (IANS) Actress Sonakshi Sinha, who is training hard for A.R. Murugadoss's actioner "Akira", is excited about learning martial arts. It's a fun thing to do and very exciting," Sonakshi said here on Tuesday at a car launch event. …

  • Airport Spotting: Priyanka Chopra Back To Mumbai
    Airport Spotting: Priyanka Chopra Back To Mumbai

    Actress Priyanka Chopra who left for India a day ago has landed up to Mumbai. Priyanka left for India from New York after wrapping up her shooting for a Hollywood show, ‘Quantico’. Today morning Priyanka Chopra was spotted at the Mumbai International airport, coming straight way from New York. Despite of doing a long journey and long three months busy schedule, there were all smiles on Priyanka Chopra’s face. …

  • Toonz to hold Animation Masters Summit

    Thiruvananthapuram, April 1 (IANS) Top international animators are expected to converge on the state capital in May for The Animation Masters Summit 2015 -- organised by popular entertainer Toonz Animation -- where budding animators will get an opportunity to interact with the experts. Toonz has also announced 'The Flying Elephant Animation and Short Film Competition'. They have invited film entries from talented and passionate artistes and filmmakers in four categories -- Animation Short …

  • Nargis Fakhri Reveals Truth About Her Link-Up With Dev Patel
    Nargis Fakhri Reveals Truth About Her Link-Up With Dev Patel

    Recently a lot of link-up rumours of Kick star Nargis Fakhri and Slumdog Millionaire actor Dev Patel started to make its round all over the internet, and this has got the actress irked. A picture of Nargis having dinner with Dev Patel made its way on Internet and soon enough, media declared the two dating each other. She made it clear that she and Dev were not the only ones having dinner together when the picture was clicked. …

  • Ujjwal Rana to play lord Vishnu in 'Narayan Narayan...'

    Mumbai, April 1 (IANS) Actor Ujjwal Rana has been roped in to play the lead role of lord Vishnu in the forthcoming mythological comedy show "Narayan Narayan Chulbulley Naarad Ki Natkhat Leelayen". In several daily soaps, I have played lead roles, but for the first time I got the chance to essay a distinctive character. …

Loading...