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photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM SCRIPT The Fifth Estate: the not-final script

FILM Fifth Estate [poster]

“Most of the events depicted never happened, or the people shown were not involved in them,” reads the posting*. “It has real names, real places, and looks like it is covering real events, but it is still a dramatic and cinematic work, and it invents or shapes the facts to fit its narrative goals.”

The film, which premiered earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festival, portrays Assange as a visionary with democratic ideals for information and altruistic motives for whistleblowers, but also as a lying, reckless revolutionary who ultimately sabotages his own creation by his refusal to consider the lives of revealed sources in published documents.

Jake Coyle

* Assange’s memo

WikiLeaks has just released a script of The Julian Assange film The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, in cinemas 11 October 2013, in order to refute in detail the veracity of the story as depicted in the script which might not be the final version. Um?

As means of showing a script this is brilliant. Top / Script / Scenes / Memo buttons. Top seems slightly redundant. Memo is Assange’s gripes and wines.

Facts/assertions from memo:

[a] a WikiLeaker saw film on 5 September 2013 and WikiLeaks now claims the script published is substantially the film.

(this is the bit that drives me mad – WikiLeaks this and that, when actually it’s one rather vulnerable man in a broom cupboard in a Small South American country’s London Embassy a stones throw from Harrods, with a few chaps and chapesses he calls for favours. WikiLeaks is Leaker facilitator now lacking, we are informed, a means to leaks since the software has gone missing.

Assange is one a man opo trying to pretend -and the media play along with this – to be a substantial journalistic organisation, when in reality it is guerrilla cyber effort instigated by one man with variable success at gathering loyal adherents to him. But no one can take away from him what he has achieved in opening up the debate on The Open Society, further on now with the NSA/GCHQ revelations.)

[b] A la WikiLeaks: there are other versions of the script in their (his) possession.

[c] The fictional film [recognition..] misrepresents, distorts, omits. But never mind about that, click on scenes button. Columns of numbers. Click on one get your scene.

According to TIFF, the film was based on Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website (2011) by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former WikiLeaks spokesperson [WikiLeaks Defector Slams Assange In Tell-All Book By Kim Zetter], as well as the 2011 book, WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding, both of which Assange claimed were inaccurate.

WikiLeaks Leaks The Fifth Estate Script in Typical Protest

By Delia Paunescu

Vulture, 22 September 2013

WikiLeaks says it’s a ‘mature’ script and the director says it is a, well, an immature one.

The film looks as if it’s a fiction. And why not, as Barry Norman might have said. As it should be. Who wants a transcript of a life, right down to a torn condom scene? That’s a point, is there a Swedish condom scene in The Fifth Estate? And were the condoms Swedish.


Man : Gee-whiz. Bonza. Must do that again soon. How about half an hour? Where’s the dunny?


Has a film about a real live (or dead) person ever been a completely accurate record of that life? Would a faithful set of correspondences make the person come to life?

Thinking of how a photograph can be mapped against the reality it has snapped and yet it’s more than reality: it’s a moment in time, but more than that – how a work of art, a portrait, captures an essence of the person, or something he has tried to hide. A photograph can do the same thing but in a different way. That little something caught might not be something the painted wants to be shown. The Sutherland portrait of Winston Churchill, immediately comes to my mind. It’s gone. Lady Churchill, if I remember correctly destroyed it herself.

This is an attempt done in sand to bring it back from the dead :


This the wiki says was created in 1978, by sand artist Brian Pike using natural coloured sands.

{1} National Portrait Galley: one of many studies of Churchill by Sutherland. (I’ll add a few more links later)

Resisting the temptation to do a PhD length dissertation on what the Sutherland portrait can tell us in a variety of ways, bracketed inside a post on Assange and his image of himself – and film and what it can do and not do and will and will not do – it’s still quite instructive to hold such notions in mind as kind of template for Assange and his dislike of a film which he hasn’t seen. (Though his mate has seen the film and say it corresponds pretty much to the script published by WikiLeaks)

Mind you, don’t think he liked the earlier film either. That again was not a true depiction of Assange as Assange sees himself. To be fair to him he is on about factual inaccuracies. What he does in trying to control his image is not unique. The higher up the greasy pole you get the more you want control of how you are seen by others. And yet, as for L’Assangne [yum, yum, tomato sauce, fresh Italian herbs] once the image wanted is mischievously being played with by others, and the fight back is too hard, picky about little points, it all becomes self-defeating. He has a right to defend himself on the important areas like the Swedish sojourn that went pear-shaped. But he becomes a figure of fun when he flails like a blind man trying to grab at things. The control-freak is the pettiest of people. He is the man (or woman) who sits in of an evening, cutting photographs up to remove people from them who are no longer part of his life.

This morning I watched a TED lecture:

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain

presented a wonderfully simple graphic to explain an experiment carried out in her lab.

NEUROSCIENCE Sarah Blakemore adolesc expt

The man is called the director but that’s by the by. The point of the experiment (of a series) is to get the viewer to move things in the cubbyholes to the director’s instructions while [a] seeing what he can see and [b] having been told to remember what the director can see from the other side. The adolescent finds it tricky to achieve the required result, which is to take account of his view and the view of the director! O.k., o.k., we’re onto empathy. Big but interesting subject. Let’s boil it down to the adage,

If you want to know yourself, look at the other; if you want to know the other look at yourself.

People are designed by nature be able to read minds.

And when it comes to art, photography, film, the same processes go on.

By the way, if you watch the TED, Blakemore mentions an anecdote: pre-teen’s misbehaving in a shop told by dad would sing them a song if they behaved, were happy to stop for the pleasure of listening to Dad trying to sing A Boy Named Sue, while after puberty the same offer was seen as a threat.

But back to the film folks getting together to decide that this and that part of a life just are not for their film, changing those bits to fit in with their conception. Part of that conception will of course be, will it sell tickets? Things about the main character will be changed to drive their narrative. This what happens in films based on real people. And it’s little different from the process an artist goes through in painting a portrait. That moment when the person walks round to look at the painting on the easel and goes, “” and can’t quite bring the words out: “Is that how you see me?” (which means, “It doesn’t look anything like me..”)

What will always be fascinating and mysterious is how the bare facts of a life can be unexceptional or seem 2-dimensional simply because we didn’t know the person – till something is done to those facts. Fiction has many purposes – one of them is to breathe life into personality and character in a way a description of a life itself doesn’t seem to be able to. This not to say many lives aren’t riveting from real life, recorded or off the page. But these are abstracts not autistic-like recordings of every millisecond of a life. Even someone one comes into regular contact with amounts to a series of gaps where we know little or nothing about the person.

In my own autistic like terrier way, driving this one into a corner: We see L’Assange on the news, we hear his pronouncements, Evita-like from balconies, and fit that together with what we read in papers and books which try to tell the whole story. On the one side there is a life with holes in it, on the other a life described in minute detail. The script writer and director create their own holey bit from both the real holey bit and the well-explained bit which itself has quite a lot of holes in. One bit missing – what goes on in the mind of an individual which is never disclosed

Filming something or recording audio, at very great length, without editing into a shape – can nonetheless have a hypnotic effect. We would know a lot more about the real Assange, for example, if a camera had been turned on from his birth right through to the present day. Well, of course we would, but y’know wadimean. From that we could see the man he wants to project out into the world would clearly be seen as a concoction, a fiction. True of every one of us. And so the film-maker concocts in turn.

But back to Assange and his script. Is he thinking about suing? What will he think when he sees the film as against the not final script? When will the DVD be out or will he use NetFlix? Does he pay for internet connection? So many questions.

What exactly is defamation? Are the film producers of Fifth happy to go ahead because the stuff already produced hasn’t had suits slapped on them by WikiLeaks Inc.? Well he can’t do any slapping down of writs – he he has no money.

Telling people’s stories on film from Arts Law is an info sheet which includes this clear explanation:

What is defamation?
Defamation is a communication from one person to another about an identifiable third person which lowers the reputation of the third person. If a film maker creates a film depicting a real person in a way that would lower the reputation of that person, and the film is released, then the film maker may be liable for defamation. The film maker may be sued for defamation by that person, or by their family or business partners.

No film would be released if the production company thought they were going to get sued, surely? (Though plenty of suing has gone on over the years) People invest in these things. They want a big return on their investment. Or, rather, they know if a film is a success at the box office, they will make a lot more than putting their dosh in an ISA*.

The really fun one, nothing to with Assange and art over self-image, is when a film producer/director takes money for a proposed project, then doesn’t make the film. Haven’t they made a film about that? The one about the script which is just a cover for mob money. Terrance Malik seems to be being sued for taking money for one film and using it make another (or three).

* tax-free savings schemes in the UK

September 24, 2013 Posted by | Julian Assage, WikiLeaks | , , | Leave a comment