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Snowden LIVE: An Interview with the director, stars and the man behind "Snowden"

Snowden LIVE was broadcasted to over 800 movie theaters after an early screening of the new movie Snowden on September 14. The event was a live streamed interview with the director of the new movie, Oliver Stone, actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, as well as Edward Snowden, the man whose actions inspired the film.

The host asked a number of questions, beginning with lighter ones such as asking Snowden what the weather is like in Russia. He replied with a laugh that during the summer he can wear a light sweatshirt, it can get very cold in the winter, but overall it is not too bad.

The conversation deepened over the course of the interview when Oliver Stone responded to what his first impressions of Ed Snowden were. He spoke about how it took Snowden a while to begin opening up, which highlighted how private of a person he is. Snowden furthered this notion when he spoke about how uncomfortable it was for him to see moments between himself and his girlfriend acted out in the film. While this makes sense objectively, it was surprising to hear from a man whose claim to fame is leaking incriminating files belonging to the NSA about collecting data on American citizens.

Shailene Woodley and Joseph Gordon-Levitt each spoke about their common enjoyment of acting difficult scenes, like the fight that Snowden referenced earlier. Woodley specifically said she enjoyed the challenge of getting to a convincing emotional place for the scene. Gordon-Levitt agreed with her, adding that it could get exhausting at times too. Depending on the number of takes, an actor has to find ways to maintain those emotions for significant stretches of time.

While each of the interviewees were noteworthy, Snowden was clearly the star among the stars, with the end of the interview focused mainly on him. On the topic of what average Americans can do to protect their privacy, he answered that while it’s easy to put a band-aid over the camera on one’s computer, it’s more likely that the average American is going to be actively threatened by a hacker than the government. He advised against reusing passwords to prevent oneself from getting hacked, and if one is really concerned about the government listening to them on the phone to download a free call encryption app.

This part of the interview led to him talking more about the importance of privacy and the need for individuals to have privacy. He commented that privacy is the right to the self and without it, citizens lose the ability to be themselves and make mistakes. Considering the rebuttal to his argument, which can be summed up as “I don’t need privacy because I have nothing to hide”, Snowden noted that the saying comes from the Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Snowden said that arguing that one doesn’t need privacy because he or she has nothing to hide is like saying one doesn’t need freedom of speech because he or she has nothing to say. This incredibly effective point had the auditorium clapping in agreement.

Toward the end of the interview, Ed Snowden found out that one of the people who came to the live event was Thomas Drake, a whistle blower preceding Snowden who had tried to go up the chain of command so that his concerns could be heard, but instead was shut down and his life ruined. Ed Snowden praised Drake’s efforts and showed a video with Former CIA Director Michael Hayden saying that if Drake had come to him with his complaints and concerns about privacy, Hayden would not have listened to him and would have told him to leave. Snowden then said that it is examples like Drake that led him to the decision that he had to expose the threat to privacy in the way that he did.

Snowden then said that the best way to make real change is by speaking up. He said that the only fight against the NSA is through the political process and that acting locally is going to be more effective than trying to act globally. He encouraged everyone to speak out if they felt that they were seeing something wrong in the world around them, because that action could be a way to make the world a better place.

The interview ended with the announcement that it was the day before Oliver Stone’s birthday, and together the 800 audience members across the country sang to him as Shailene Woodley presented a cake, celebrating both one more year and the new film. As the noise died down, it was clear that the interview had been impactful: many viewers left the theater in conversation about what they had just seen, and a heightened interest in issues related to privacy. Snowden’s powerful language served as a catalyst to the conversation around Americans’ willingness to give up privacy for security in a Post September 11 environment. Informed citizens are the most powerful tool to a democracy, and it was clear that this interview had sparked the audience to consider the ways that they themselves interact with internet and privacy issues.

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