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Upcoming WikiLeaks films: How accurate will they be?

There are a number of films about WikiLeaks planned for 2013, with many of them looking to contain one-sided and potentially false information. It’s important to take a look at the source material for these films to determine the validity of the information they will contain.


“The Man Who Sold the World”
Production Company: DreamWorks
Source Material: “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website” by Daniel Domschiet-Berg, “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy” by David Leigh and Luke Harding
Director: Bill Condon (“The Twilight Saga”)
Actors: Benedict Cumberbatch (as Julian Assange), Daniel Brühl (as Daniel Domschiet-Berg), Dan Stevens (as “Ian”, based on Ian Katz), Alicia Vikander (as Anke Domschiet-Berg)
Release Date: 2013/2014

The source material for Dreamworks’ upcoming film are two books which portray WikiLeaks and Julian Assange in a negative light.

“Inside WikiLeaks” was written by Daniel Domschiet-Berg, a former WikiLeaks staffer who was suspended in 2010, who stole and deleted large amounts of data from WikiLeaks. His book contains numerous petty attacks against Julian Assange, his “greasy pants” and his “backseat driving”.

“WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy” is written by two journalists at The Guardian, a paper which had a falling out with WikiLeaks. The book is infamous as it contained the password for the encrypted Cablegate file, leading to the release of all 251,287 unredacted State Department cables. David Leigh is a well-known critic of Julian Assange, and was a consultant for the film “WikiLeaks: Secrets and Lies”, which presented a one-sided view of WikiLeaks, cutting out many crucial facts. Julian Assange launched an Ofcom complaint against the film, although it was eventually rejected.

Knowing the source material, it is difficult to see how this film could be balanced in any way. Variety reports that, “Assange is expected to be portrayed as a noble crusader who eventually becomes drunk with power as he grows increasingly paranoid and obsessed with winning the ‘war of information’.”

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson commented on the upcoming movie saying, “If the film reflects what is written in those books, it will provide a negative view of WikiLeaks with limited impartiality. Hollywood is not exactly the best reflection of contemporary history. I don’t believe WikiLeaks or Julian has been contacted by Dreamworks, but I don’t expect any courtesy from any organisation within Hollywood“.

The screenplay is reported to be under a non-disclosure agreement.


“We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks”
Production Company: Global Produce (created by former Universal producer Marc Shmuger)
Director: Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”)
Release Date: 21 January 2013 (Sundance Film Festival)

Going by a recent New York Times article on this upcoming documentary, “We Steal Secrets” is likely to be highly speculative. The final screen of the film describes the fate of Bradley Manning saying, “He was found guilty of TK, and sentenced to TK years” in prison”. “TK” represents facts yet to come, but the film is already speculating in the outcome of Bradley Manning’s trial, which isn’t set to begin until two months after the film’s premiere. Regarding Julian Assange, “The film promises to break ground, particularly with its deep exploration of the sex case in Sweden”. Again, for a film which is presenting itself as a documentary, it is likely to engage in a lot of speculation, as the Swedish investigation against Julian Assange is ongoing.

In response to The New York Times article, WikiLeaks commented, “WikiLeaks refused to cooperate with ‘we steal secrets’ in anyway. None of its staff gave interviews for reasons that must now be obvious”.


Production Company: Annapurna Pictures
Source Material: “The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” by Bill Keller
Writer: Mark Boal (“Zero Dark Thirty”)

Little is known about this film, but Bill Keller is a major critic of Julian Assange, to the point where he received a large amount of retaliation from other journalists in response to his February 2012 piece, “WikiLeaks: A Postscript”. As for Mark Boal, his latest film “Zero Dark Thirty” has received its own criticisms, focusing on its glorification of torture.


Source Material: “Private: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History” by Denver Nicks
Director: Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”)

Alex Gibney has acquired the rights to Denver Nicks’ book, but a screenwriter has yet to be selected.


Production Company: HBO
Source Material: “No Secrets: Julian Assange’s Mission for Total Transparency” by Raffi Khatchadourian
Director: Rowan Joffe

This film has been delayed, but Raffi Khatchadourian’s article can be read here.