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Hillary Clinton’s fall festival tour generated plenty of bemusement and column inches, and those appearances have now come under fire from Venice’s latest Golden Lion winner.
Speaking at the Toronto Film Festival, Laura Poitras — whose new doc, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, took home Venice’s top prize — said it was “alarming to see some of the most powerful people in the world, such as Hillary Clinton, walking the red carpet at Venice and at TIFF, and saying nothing about journalism,” a statement that prompted applause from the audience.
Poitras argued that Clinton was “engaging in a form of whitewashing,” accusing the former secretary of state — who was at TIFF to promote the upcoming Netflix doc In Her Hands, about one of Afghanistan’s first female mayors and the first doc from her own production company — of being actively involved in and supporting the increase in U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan while in office.
The documentarian — speaking following All the Beauty and the Bloodshed‘s screening at TIFF on Monday — raised the subject of Clinton, which she admitted she was initially hesitant to do, while discussing Julian Assange (who featured in her Oscar-winning doc Citizenfour and was the subject of her 2016 film Risk) and the current attempt by the U.S. government to extradite him from the U.K. and charge him under the Espionage Act. The effort, she claimed, was “literally the most important issue facing journalism globally right now.”
Poitras said there was “nothing more serious that threatens the First Amendment,” because what the U.S. was trying to do was charge Assange for “publishing, for literally revealing war crimes in the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.”
She offered Clinton “a challenge”: to call for the end to the “prosecution and persecution” of Julian Assange. “Because all she has to do is pick up her phone, because she has all their numbers on her phone, and these are the most powerful people in the world.”
In Venice on Saturday, All The Beauty and the Bloodshed — following New York artist and activist Nan Goldin and her protests against the Sackler family and their OxyContin-manufacturing company Purdue Pharma — became only the second documentary to win the Golden Lion, something Poitras said she was “still processing.”
“We were the only documentary in competition, so we were over the moon just to be invited,” she said. “It really wasn’t on our radar and [we] didn’t think it was even a possibility.”
Poitras added that she was “so thankful that they recognized that documentary is cinema. It really meant something — and not just for this film.”
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