Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Underground: The Julian Assange Story" kick-starts FilmfestDC tonight

Filmfest DC for 2013 opened at the Regal Gallery Place with a showing on two screens of “Underground: The Julian Assange Story”, by Robert Connolly and Matchbox Films (Australia), based on the book by Suelette Dreyfus.

The film shows a teenage Julian (Alex Williams, who is quite charismatic in the role) taking after his mother’s (Rachel Griffiths) activism and learning to hack conventional telephone circuits with his home PC, and eventually spy on the US military’s plans during Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War.  (Assange claims, in a climactic film at his arrest, that he can prove that the US military knew it was deliberately killing civilians with air strikes in Iraq.)  The film starts in 1989 in Melbourne, Australia, and is quite interesting in showing the capabilities of technology  (like the Commodore or Apple with a dialup connection, and telnet Unix commands) at the time, just with dialup.  Remember “War Games” (1983)?
Julian’s mother demonstrates against things like using plutonium in space satellites. Julian already has a passion for journalism, for sleuthing and discovering the deepest secrets himself. 

Julian also becomes a father with his girl friend at around 18. I wondered how he was going to support his new family.  But he is driven by his passion.  One thing that helps him, too, is pure physical stamina.
I share the same passion, but more for collecting and collating all the arguments to present a complete, objective picture on the social justice issues, and sustainability. It’s not necessary to hack illegally (and I don’t know how to do it).  But sometimes people do pass information on even to me that probably is secret.

The closing credits explained the light sentence Assange got in 1991 from a sympathetic judge.  It summarizes briefly his founding of Wikileaks in 2006.  
The official site for the film is here.

The showing (sold out in two large auditoriums tonight) was followed by a live phone call to Assange at his political asylum hideout in the Ecuador Embassy in London.  He spoke for about twenty minutes.

Assange said that the Internet can mark either the down fall or salvation of civilization. He said we have no privacy anymore.  All of us are practically compelled to display our lives on social media. He also has mellowed a bit on the importance of government, saying government has to protect the rights of the people but needs stability and control to do so.  

There was an opening night party at Bar Louie, also in the Verizon Center, with a spicy Mexican hors d’oeuvres table.  A supplementary CD offering featurettes and the screenplay text was provided. 

The film should be compared to "We Are Legion", reviewed here June 25, 2012.  Also there is "Julian Assange: A Modern Day Hero" on Sept. 19, 2012, and :WikiRebels" on Dec. 12, 2012;  and The 40 minute Bradley Manning video of friendly fire in Iraq, "Collateral Murder" may be viewed from an embed in an April 7, 2010 review on my "Films on major threats to freedom" blog (check my Profile).  

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