Documentary/Docudrama Reviews: Official Secrets (2019) & The Great Hack (2019)

Official Secrets is a truly important film that focuses on 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq. It’s a docudrama (real news footage is interspersed with the film) that follows Katharine Gun, played by Keira Knightley. (Seriously, when is Keira Knightley not perfection??) An employee at GCHQ, Katharine Gun learned via email that the USA sought to acquire intelligence on other nations who might oppose the war. Horrified of the outcome and the impending death toll, Gun brings the document to her friend, an antiwar activist, who then leaks it to The Observer.

The film also focuses on her relationship with her husband, an immigrant to the UK, and how he was impacted by her choices. Needless to say, I cried a few times. The real Katharine Gun also apparently really liked the film and it’s been praised for its accuracy. If you’re curious about this one, it should be available on Amazon Prime.

I followed Official Secrets with The Great Hack, which is available on Netflix. If you haven’t heard about the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, this documentary delves into the extent to which members of FB and CA used peoples’ personal information to directly target them to drive elections. If you’ve seen Snowden (or followed the Edward Snowden case), it’s very similar, just as disturbing, and remains prevalent to this day.

The main players in the documentary are Carole Cadwalladr, David Carroll, Christopher Wylie and Brittany Kaiser. These last two are former employees of CA who eventually come forward to discuss their role in the events that followed, especially the 2016 election in the USA and the Brexit referendum in the UK. As with Official Secrets, none of the information was new to me, but seeing it play out is quite shocking and being reminded of the extent of it is always a punch to the gut.

Both of these films are well worth a watch and focus on extremely important moments in recent history. It’s imperative that we don’t forget the atrocities in our world and how often human rights have been ignored in the face of power, money, greed, politics and war.

I recommend these films to everyone, but perhaps have cartoons on standby to watch afterwards. They’re tough to get through.

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