CitizenFour,” a documentary about Edward Snowden and NSA spying, has won the International Documentary Association top award for best feature, after it was named the best non-fiction film of 2014.

The film won in a category where other nominees were “Finding Vivian Maier,” “Point and Shoot,” “The Salt of the Earth” and “Tales of the Grim Sleeper.” All of the nominees are on the 15-film Oscar doc shortlist except for “Point and Shoot”. The IDA award for “CitizenFour” follows the film’s best documentary win at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards this week.


Snowden: CitizenFour

Laura Poitras, the Berlin-based filmmaker, received the award Friday night in ceremonies at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles for her documentary which features a series of face-to-face meetings between Poitras and the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Snowden, who blew the whistle on top secret NSA materials, exposing US surveillance network worldwide, warns in the trailer:

Every border you cross, every purchase you make, every call you dial is in the hands of a system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not.”

He got in touch with Poitras, who is on the US Homeland Security “watch list”, last January when she was working on a feature about surveillance in the post-9/11 era. In that time, Poitras began receiving emails from “CitizenFour,” who turned out to be Snowden. The sender wrote:

“I am a senior government employee in the intelligence community. I hope you understand that contacting you was extremely high-risk.”

Poitras said she was highly surprised when he continued:

I’m coming forward and I want you to paint a target on my back because I don’t want a leak investigation that ruins the lives of others.

Poitras told Vanity Fair:

I think Snowden wanted to take responsibility so others didn’t take the fall. When he told me that, I told him, ‘I want to meet you and I want to film.’ His response was: ‘No, I don’t want to be the story.’ There was also a risk of us being in the same place at the same time. He didn’t want to take risks and then someone busts in the door and all this work to get the information out and it doesn’t get out. The reporting would continue if something happened to both of us.”

Reuters reported:

“”CitizenFour” gives a fly-on-the-wall account of Snowden’s tense days in a Hong Kong hotel and encounters with journalists as newspapers published details of NSA programs that gathered data from the Internet activities and phone records of millions of Americans and dozens of world leaders.”

“CitizenFour” was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award last month. It debuted to a rare standing ovation at the New York Film Festival in October. Moreover, it also won the Gotham Award for best documentary.

For many times, Poitras was stopped and detained from crossing the US border, as she said, that happened before she was contacted by Snowden. After that, she decided to move to Berlin.

Poitras reportedly said:

“Last year there was a lot of uncertainty and, I’ll admit, there was a lot of fear. To be on the other side of that fear is nice.”

Edward Snowden has received the Right Livelihood Award, a Swedish-based alternative to the Nobel Prize, for revealing state surveillance which violated basic democratic and constitutional rights. He accepted the award via video from Moscow.

Snowden also reportedly said during his latest speech (from Moscow):

“I hope despite all we have accomplished in the last year, we all recognize that this is only the beginning. These are things that are unlikely to change soon. But they have been worth it, all the prices we paid, all the sacrifices we made, I believe we’d do it again. I know I would do again.”



(1) LA Times

(2) Reuters

(3) Hollywood Reporter