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‘Risk’ Documentary Director Rethinks Assange

Recounting the story of the WikiLeaks founder raised questions that Laura Poitras, an Oscar-winning documentarian, didn't necessarily intend to raise.

When it came to telling the complicated tale of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, documentarian Laura Poitras knew that the story would be compelling and convoluted. But she did not realize exactly how complicated — and contradictory — that story would turn out to be.

Recounting the story of the WikiLeaks founder raised questions that Poitras, an Oscar-winning documentarian, didn’t necessarily intend to raise. Initially, material from the documentary she put together on Assange was molded into an episodic series that was shown at the 2015 New York Film Festival; afterward, a fuller film was released at Cannes last year. And in that version, the film depicted the WikiLeaks founder as more of a maverick than as a villain.

The final film, released this week, turns out to be very different from the Cannes version. ‘Risk’ showcases Assange and what seem to be traits of narcissism, contempt about some women and newly added voiceover commentary by Poitras herself that illustrates her assessment about this polarizing figure.

“This is not the film I thought I was making. I thought I could ignore the contradictions,” Poitras wrote in her production journal while filming the movie. “I thought [those contractions] weren’t part of the story. I was so wrong. They are the story.” To read more about Poitras and the film’s production, click

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