“Citizenfour” takes best feature doc Oscar

Laura Poitras' doc on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden took the Best Documentary Feature prize at the 87th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles last night.
February 22, 2015

Laura Poitras’ doc on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden took the Best Documentary Feature prize at the 87th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles last night (February 22).

The film details the initial meetings between Poitras, Snowden, investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian journalist Ewen MacAskill in Hong Kong, during which Snowden revealed classified information about the NSA.

Accepting the prize, Poitras – who was joined by Greenwald on stage – said: “The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself… Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage and the many other whistleblowers, and I share this with Glenn Greenwald and the many other journalists who are exposing the truth.”

Citizenfour was up against John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s Finding Vivian Maier; Rory Kennedy’s Last Days in Vietnam; Wim Wenders’ The Salt of the Earth; and Orlando von Einsiedel’s Virunga.

Realscreen caught up with Poitras in November 2014, following the documentary’s world premiere at the New York Film Festival, to discuss the making of the documentary and the counter-surveillance measures taken to ensure the security of the project.

“I was certainly nervous,” said Poitras in the interview. “I had encrypted drives, one to back up and move outside of the hotel room in case the room was raided… I travelled with a printer, because I wanted to be able to print questions and I didn’t just want to go to a public printer.

“I prepared to be able to work in a situation where if something were to happen I wouldn’t lose all of the footage,” she added.

Elsewhere, the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short went to Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry’s Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, which examines the traumas endured by U.S. war veterans, through the work of trained responders at New York’s Veterans Crisis Line.

The short bested Aneta Kopacz’s Joanna; Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki’s Our Curse; Gabriel Serra Arguello’s The Reaper (La Parka); and J. Christian Jensen’s White Earth.


About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.