Film fest prom­ises full story of Wik­iLeaks

The Toronto Film Fes­ti­val re­turns this week with a lineup con­tain­ing some of Hol­ly­wood’s most an­tic­i­pated new re­leases. Lead­ing the pack is The Fifth Es­tate, which prom­ises to lift the lid on the story of whistle­blower Ju­lian As­sange and the furore that s

Outlook - - CONTENTS - By Michel Comte

The Toronto Film Fes­ti­val re­turns with Hol­ly­wood's hottest new re­leases in­clud­ing The Fifth Es­tate, which prom­ises to lift the lid on the story of whistle­blower Ju­lian As­sange and Wik­iLeaks.

North Amer­ica's largest film fes­ti­val opens on Septem­ber 4 with a drama about real life Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange, promis­ing the "full story" be­hind the whistle­blower web­site.

The Fifth Es­tate by di­rec­tor Bill Con­don is based on a book by As­sange's once-trusted lieu­tenant and for­mer Wik­iLeaks spokesman Daniel Dom­scheitBerg, about events lead­ing to the largest se­crets leak in Amer­i­can his­tory in 2010.

Its world pre­miere comes just weeks af­ter soldier Chelsea Man­ning was sen­tenced to 35 years in prison for send­ing 700,000 doc­u­ments – mil­i­tary war logs and US diplo­matic ca­bles – to Wik­iLeaks, which pub­lished them.

Man­ning, who has asked to be recog­nised as a woman fol­low­ing his trial, was ar­rested in 2010 while serv­ing as a ju­nior in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst at a US base near Bagh­dad. The young soldier has been hailed by sup­port­ers as a hero for ex­pos­ing what they see as US abuses in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but de­nounced by pros­e­cu­tors as a traitor who put coun­try and com­rades at risk. As­sange mean­while re­mains

holed up at the Ecuador em­bassy in Lon­don af­ter claim­ing asy­lum from that coun­try a year ago to avoid ex­tra­di­tion to Swe­den, where he is wanted for ques­tion­ing over al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault against two women.

"It's not that com­mon for a fea­ture film, par­tic­u­larly a Hol­ly­wood fea­ture film, to deal with a story that is so cur­rent in the news," com­mented fes­ti­val boss Cameron Bai­ley. "So it's in­ter­est­ing to see."

"Film is a uniquely emo­tive medium," he said. "It's got so many tools at its dis­posal: the power of the im­age, the size of the im­age, the com­mu­nal way we watch movies, mu­sic, all of these things can com­bine to re­ally make us feel some­thing deeply or re­veal a deeper truth."

"That can be a good thing in that some­times dry news re­port­ing doesn't give you the full story... Feel­ing sym­pa­thetic (or not) to­ward a cen­tral char­ac­ter can also in­flu­ence your opin­ion on events or what they mean.

"I think this film is just one more way to un­der­stand Ju­lian As­sange and Wik­iLeaks," Bai­ley said. "The film does not come down hard on one side or an­other but it tries to make au­di­ences un­der­stand all of the el­e­ments that are at play.

"It doesn't in­vite you to like or hate As­sange. He's nei­ther a hero nor a vil­lain, he's a com­plex per­son and to its credit the film shows you that com­plex­ity. It doesn't ever let you rest on one sim­ple im­pres­sion of him."

The film fes­ti­val, which ran through Septem­ber 15, show­cased 366 fea­ture films, in­clud­ing 146 world pre­mieres.

Though it did not award a jury prize like at Cannes or Venice, the Toronto film fes­ti­val has tra­di­tion­ally been a key event for Os­car-con­scious stu­dios and dis­trib­u­tors, and at­tracts hun­dreds of film­mak­ers and ac­tors to its red car­pet.

This year's lineup in­cluded celebri­ties such as Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Ju­lia Roberts, Kate Winslet and Jen­nifer Anis­ton.

In ad­di­tion to Con­don's lat­est ti­tle, the fes­ti­val fea­tured sev­eral sto­ries ripped from the head­lines, such as Justin Chad­wick's Man­dela: Long Walk to Free­dom, star­ring Bri­tish ac­tor Idris Elba as the leg­endary South African

"It's not that com­mon for a fea­ture film, par­tic­u­larly a Hol­ly­wood fea­ture film, to deal with a story that is so cur­rent in the news."

free­dom fighter and based on his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

"It's far more than any news ar­ti­cle or broad­cast news could ever give you. It re­ally gives you the feel­ing of trans­for­ma­tion that this man un­der­went... to be­come a fig­ure of in­spi­ra­tion for a coun­try that he felt needed it," said Bai­ley.

"I don't think a sim­ple re­count­ing of the facts of Man­dela's life is enough to give you the power of the emo­tion that this film does," he said. "You can only get that through fic­tion, whether in books or film."

Cana­dian filmmaker Atom Egoyan also screened his Devil's Knot about Damien Echols, Jessie Misskel­ley Jr, and Ja­son Bald­win. The three men were tried and con­victed in 1994 of the mur­ders of three boys in West Mem­phis, Arkansas. Pros­e­cu­tors al­leged the chil­dren were killed as part of a satanic rit­ual.

But new foren­sic ev­i­dence pre­sented in 2011 led them to reach a deal with pros­e­cu­tors which al­lowed them to as­sert their in­no­cence while ac­knowl­edg­ing that pros­e­cu­tors had enough ev­i­dence to con­vict them.

They were re­leased af­ter hav­ing spent 18 years in prison.

Sev­eral doc­u­men­taries, in­clud­ing Amy Berg's doc­u­men­tary West of Mem­phis, which pre­miered at last year's Toronto film fes­ti­val, have been made about the case. Egoyan is the first to turn it into a fea­ture film.

The Toronto Film Fes­ti­val opened on Septem­ber with The Fifth Es­tate, a drama about Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange. The film, di­rected by Bill Con­don, is based on a book by As­sange's once-trusted lieu­tenant Daniel Dom­scheit-Berg and cov­ers the events lead­ing to the largest leak in Amer­i­can his­tory in 2010. File photo

Di­rec­tor Bill Con­don, pic­tured in Los An­ge­les, Cal­i­for­nia, has brought his new drama, "The Fifth Es­tate," to Toronto. The high­lyan­tic­i­pated film sees Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch star as con­tro­ver­sial Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange.

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