In January 2013, award-winning documentarian Laura Poitras was several years into making a film about surveillance in the post-9/11 era when she started receiving encrypted e-mails from someone identifying himself as only as "CITIZENFOUR." The individual claimed to be in possession of classified information regarding massive covert and possibly illegal surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency and other intelligence arms of the U.S. government. He had chosen Poitras, based on her prior work, to make them public.
A few months later, Poitras and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong to meet whoever it was that had contacted her. She brought her camera.
CITIZENFOUR, of course, was Edward Snowden. The articles that resulted earned Poitras, Greenwald, and others the highest awards in journalism.
Now comes her film of those tense early encounters, and it's sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100 percent real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes.
Get the latest updates on CITIZENFOUR at takepart.com/citizenfour.