Filmmaker Laura Poitras: 'Good journalism is trouble-making' | Inquirer Entertainment

Filmmaker Laura Poitras: ‘Good journalism is trouble-making’

/ 06:52 PM March 10, 2023


In this file photo taken on Sept. 10, 2022, US director Laura Poitras poses with the Golden Lion for Best Film she received for “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” during the Award Winners Outside Photocall following the closing ceremony of the 79th Venice International Film Festival at Lido di Venezia in Venice, Italy. The documentary is up for an Oscar on Sunday, March 12, 2023. It tells the story of renowned photographer Nan Goldin and her fight to shame the Sackler family who own the pharmaceutical firm behind painkiller Oxycontin, blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

PARIS, France—Laura Poitras has made herself the conscience of the United States with groundbreaking films about the occupation of Iraq, tech surveillance, and now the opioid epidemic. She is proud to call herself a troublemaker.

“I think it’s so important to document histories of struggle,” the 59-year-old filmmaker told AFP during a visit to Paris to promote her latest film, “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The documentary, which won the Golden Bear in Venice and is up for an Oscar on Sunday, March 12, tells the story of renowned photographer Nan Goldin and her fight to shame the Sackler family who own the pharmaceutical firm behind painkiller Oxycontin, blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

From the Oscar-winning “Citizenfour” about whistle-blower Edward Snowden, to “Risk” about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and “My Country, My Country” about the US occupation of Iraq, she sees all her films as “an indictment of US power and the US government.”

FEATURED STORIES

In the case of her new film, “we have a company and a family that have been promoting a drug that is getting people addicted and causing mass overdoses, and (the government) did nothing, and there was evidence going back two decades that it was killing people,” she said.

Though she was nervous about sharing the most intimate details of Goldin’s traumatic life, it was naturally a less terrifying process than her work on “Citizenfour.”

“This was more of a collaboration than my relationship with Edward Snowden,” she said.

“In both cases there was a huge responsibility… but with Edward Snowden I literally had his life in my hands. If I made a mistake he could be imprisoned or worse.”

‘Outrageous’

Born into a wealthy family in Boston, it was the aftermath of the attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, that catalyzed Poitras’ career.

“Watching this kind of global dominance and occupation and torture and ‘black sites’—these things were outrageous and I guess I felt I needed to respond to that,” she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Good journalism should be troublemaking. Bad journalism is about getting access to power… those people aren’t really troublemakers.”

Although her portrait of Assange in 2017’s “Risk” was far from entirely positive, she says the efforts to extradite him to the United States as “the biggest threat to journalism today.”

“I’m guilty of violating the Espionage Act. If you’re going to target Julian then you’re targeting anyone who’s done national security reporting and exposed documents.

“People have been so silent (on Assange’s case). Europe should step in and provide asylum,” she added.

Though protected by her status as a journalist, she has faced harassment—placed on a watchlist following the release of 2006’s “My Country, My Country,” leading to frequent detentions for questioning at airports.

“I think I hit a nerve, but I’m proud that I hit the nerve,” she said.

Does she think the Biden administration is still watching her?

“That’s a question for the government,” she said with a smile.  /ra

RELATED STORIES:

‘Citizenfour’ wins Oscar for best documentary 

Gender identity gets starring role at Venice Film Festival 

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Documentary, films, Journalism, Oscars, US
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our entertainment news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.



© Copyright 1997-2023 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.