Director: Oliver Stone. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Rhys Ifans. France/Germany/USA 2016. 134 mins.
Having discovered that the US government is eavesdropping on the digital lives of millions of innocent Americans in the name of national security, loyal CIA contractor and computer genius Edward Snowden (Gordon-Levitt) undergoes a damascene conversion. In leaking thousands of classified documents to the Guardian newspaper to expose this malfeasance, he became a pariah to some, a twenty-first-century hero to others. Oliver Stone’s chillingly persuasive account of Snowden’s journey from patriotic soldier to global whistleblower allows us to make our own judgement, not least thanks to a finely balanced script from Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald (The Homesman), and stunning performances from Gordon-Levitt, Woodley (Divergent’s Tris) as his feisty girlfriend, Tom Wilkinson as a Guardian elder and Ifans as Snowden’s CIA handler. Gripping.
Director: Nate Parker.
Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King. USA 2016. 120 mins.
Giving a film about an 1831 slave uprising in Virginia, USA, the same title as D. W. Griffith’s Ku Klux Klan-championing silent epic from 1915 was a bold and wonderfully pointed decision on the part of first-time African-American director Nate Parker. In an interview, Parker stated that he had reclaimed the title and “repurposed it as a tool to challenge racism and white supremacy in America”.
Parker takes the central role, and also co-wrote and co-produced this tale based on the life of Nat Turner. An enslaved African American, Turner led a violent rebellion that resulted in the deaths of up to 65 white men, women and children. Timely and confrontational, Parker’s The Birth Of A Nation won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival.