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Laura Poitras

December 20, 2012


constant harassment “…Poitras’ intent all along with these two documentaries was to produce a trilogy of War on Terror films, and she is currently at work on the third installment. As Poitras described it to me, this next film will examine the way in which The War on Terror has been imported onto U.S. soil, with a focus on the U.S. Government’s increasing powers of domestic surveillance, its expanding covert domestic NSA activities (including construction of a massive new NSA facility in Bluffdale, Utah), its attacks on whistleblowers, and the movement to foster government transparency and to safeguard Internet anonymity. In sum, Poitras produces some of the best, bravest and most important filmmaking and journalism of the past decade, often exposing truths that are adverse to U.S. government policy, concerning the most sensitive and consequential matters (a 2004 film she produced for PBS on gentrification of an Ohio town won the Peabody Award and was nominated for an Emmy). But Poitras’ work has been hampered, and continues to be hampered, by the constant harassment, invasive searches, and intimidation tactics to which she is routinely subjected whenever she re-enters her own country. Since the 2006 release of “My Country, My Country,” Poitras has left and re-entered the U.S. roughly 40 times. Virtually every time during that six-year-period that she has returned to the U.S., her plane has been met by DHS agents who stand at the airplane door or tarmac and inspect the passports of every de-planing passenger until they find her (on the handful of occasions where they did not meet her at the plane, agents were called when she arrived at immigration). Each time, they detain her, and then interrogate her at length about where she went and with whom she met or spoke. They have exhibited a particular interest in finding out for whom she works…” – Glenn Greenwald (READ MORE)

interrogations produced nothing of value “…Creating sympathy for people who are harmed by our actions and suggesting we take responsibility for our own are just some of the powerful things that art can do. But confusing ideas that are dangerous to your interests—for example, the suggestion that the huge growth of our security state haven’t reaped us tangible benefits and may in fact have done some damage—and dangerous to the country is a mistake intelligent people out to be ashamed to make. Greenwald points out that DHS concluded that their interrogations of Poitras had produced nothing of value, and yet continued to perform them. Maybe those agencies should answer some questions about what they expect to get next time around, and why harassing Poitras is a valuable use of their time. It’s a far milder query than the ones Poitras is being interrogated for posing.” – Alyssa Rosenberg (READ MORE)

pre-emptive military force “…The statement reveals how Obama has angered his anti-war political base. Poitras says DHS put her on its watch list after she made My Country, My Country, a documentary about the 2005 Iraq elections. “The use of pre-emptive military force and the goal of implementing democracy in the Middle East mark a radical shift in U.S. policy and world politics,” Poitras told PBS. “I felt compelled to document this war and its consequences. In the course of that documentary, Poitras filmed an attack on American troops. “If she had advance knowledge of the attack, she did not call and warn the battalion,” wrote John R. Bruning in The Devil’s Sandbox. “It stood to reason that she did,” he also wrote. Poitras has also filmed a documentary, The Oath, about a former driver and bodyguard of Osama bin Laden’s named Abu Jandal. “Poitras treats her subject with some sympathy as Jandal explains his stance against targeting civilians and how he came to tell the FBI about his experience,” The National said in a review of the film…” – Joel Gehrke (READ MORE)

chilling unchecked government invasion “…”Poitras is now forced to take extreme steps — ones that hamper her ability to do her work — to ensure that she can engage in her journalism and produce her films without the U.S. Government intruding into everything she is doing. She now avoids traveling with any electronic devices.” After citing the fact that Poitras had been reluctant to bring up the DHS’ treatment of her in the past, he recounts her last experience with Customs and Border Patrol agents at Newark Airport, in which she was told she could not take notes during her interrogation and was accused of not cooperating with “an investigation.” Greenwald concludes, “even for someone in Poitras’ position, this continuous unchecked government invasion is chilling in both senses of the word: it’s intimidating in its own right, and deters journalists and others from challenging government conduct…” – Bryce J. Renninger (READ MORE)

Laura Poitras is an American documentary film director and producer. She resides in New York City. She co-directed, produced and shot her 2003 documentary Flag Wars, about gentrification in Columbus, Ohio. It received a Peabody Award, Best Documentary at both the 2003 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival and the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the Filmmaker Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The film also launched the 2003 PBS POV series. It was nominated for a 2004 Independent Spirit Award and a 2004 Emmy Award. Poitras’ other films include Oh say can you see… (2003) and Exact Fantasy (1995). Her 2006 film My Country, My Country about life for Iraqis under U.S. occupation was nominated for an Academy Award. Her 2010 film The Oath, about two Yemenis men caught up in America’s War on Terror, won the “Excellence in Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary” at the 2010 Sundance film festival. The two films are part of a trilogy. The third part will focus on how the War on Terror increasingly focuses on Americans through surveillance, covert activities and attacks on whistleblowers. Poitras says her work has been hampered by constant harassment by border agents during more than three dozen border crossings into and out of the United States. She has been detained for hours and interrogated and agents have seized her computer, cell phone and reporters notes and not returned them for weeks. Once she was threatened with being refused entry back into the United States. In response to a Glenn Greenwald article about this, a group of film directors started a petition to protest the government’s actions against her. In February 2010, Poitras won the “True Vision Award” at the True/False Film Festival. The award is for filmmakers whose work shows a dedication to the creative advancement of the art of nonfiction film making. In spring 2012 Poitras took an active part in the three month exposition of Whitney Biennial exhibition of contemporary American art. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

Related Reading:
IMDB: Laura Poitras
Official Web-site: My Country My Country
Laura Poitras: Surveillance Teach-In
The inside story
The Oath Honored at the Sundance Film Festival
Picturing a better vision
Documentary Directors Protest Homeland Security Treatment Of Helmer Laura Poitras
Laura Poitras, Puzzling Over A Jihadi’s Journey (Audio)
Detained in the U.S.: Filmmaker Laura Poitras Held, Questioned Some 40 Times at U.S. Airports (Video)

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