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On Gibney's 'We Steal Secrets'

Aka 'Gibney: Aliens Ate My Brain'.


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Reading through the transcript of Alex Gibney's 'documentary' 'We Steal Secrets' on WikiLeaks is a mind-numbing nightmare. You remember when those aliens abducted you and took you aboard their spaceship and stripped you naked and strapped you to a table and put those weird green flashing probes on your head and in your ears and told you 'this won't hurt a bit'? Well it's the same thing with Gibney. If you aren't brain-dead already, just hold on and be patient. Alex Gibney the documentary filmmaker will take care of you.

But can Alex Gibney be called a documentary filmmaker? No he can't. And Andrew Fowler covered the entire subject matter a year ago. Of course Gibney was approached by Universal at least a year before that - before August 2010 in fact - and Gibney and sister in arms Alexis Bloom spent most of their initial time schmoozing with John and Deborah of Cryptome, a foil that met with consummate failure.

So what can you call Gibney? Host of a television children's hour? Perhaps. Can you say what Alex Gibney is? No. That's very difficult. It's much easier to say what he's not.

Alex Gibney is not a journalist. Lord knows what he thinks he is. But try standing him next to the Greg Palasts and John Pilgers and Andrew Fowlers and you see you found someone out of Adventure Land in Orlando. Gibney is to journalism what Thomas the Tank Engine is to Train à Grande Vitesse. He's the Kim Kardashian of the business. There's no moral, no ethics, no burning desire to risk life and limb to get the truth out to people. There's only the cute idea of coming onto a big battle field once the dust has settled to proclaim 'I am a reporter! A documentary filmmaker! Where is everyone?'

And after that it's the sensationalism. And pimping someone else's agenda for a pound.

Judging from the fiasco of 'We Steal Secrets', Alex Gibney is a joke. Which makes one wonder about his previous efforts (and that statue he got). For anyone who happens to know the subject matter beforehand, there's something appalling in the lack of due diligence in the Gibney ethic. Some of the myriad gaffes in this piece are so easy to spot, the actual truth being 'really out there'.

The very way Gibney approaches this project says all. Neither he nor his producer Alexis Bloom seemed to have a clue before they started. And so they tried to play 'catch up'. Assuming the topic was a simple one on the intellectual level they're accustomed to. It's appalling how they really don't see there's more to their story than meets their myopic eyes.

Then again, when one already has the definitive work in this genre out there and available to all - the Fowler documentary for 4 Corners - what exactly is the point? Gibney couldn't reproduce Fowler - he lacks the acumen. And where Fowler does it right by asking questions, Gibney blows it all the way through by giving answers - answers where none are really to be found. Fowler does it right: he presents cold impartial evidence and lets the viewer decide. Gibney does it wrong - he presents a thin slice of evidence and then tells the viewer what to conclude.

But were Gibney to merely be a sloppy, careless, childish, hapless, amateurish researcher, then surely he would err on both sides of the 'great divide'. The fact that he almost always errs on the side of 'the powers that be' - even in the face of corroborated evidence so overwhelming that lesser charlatans would back away - shows he has an agenda, something no self-respecting journalist should ever have.

Gibney's producer Alexis Bloom ingratiated herself shamelessly with John and Deborah at Cryptome for months. You'll rarely read unabashed schmoozing like that. And the folly of it all, as you'll discover, is that she really thought they'd be able to dupe Mr & Mrs Cryptome.

The cherry on the torte is the title - 'We Steal Secrets'. Taken from an obscure quote from a former head of the CIA interviewed in the movie. What that title has to do with WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, or the price of tea in China isn't known, and Gibney has never offered any rational explanation.

WikiLeaks doesn't steal, period, and Gibney knows it. They have a submission system, and whistleblowers give them things, and Gibney knows it. They're bound by international legislation to do things in that manner, and they've made that patently clear over the years. And Gibney knows it.

The movie is drenched in Gibney's cringeworthy voice, which is clearly not suited for the job. Compare with Fowler or Pilger and you'll get the idea. Gibney doesn't come across as having a full deck of marbles in his penthouse suite. Is he trying to sound like Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone? Some people suggested it. What else can they do in such an attack on their senses?

And the ending. Oh the ending! No spoilers here, but don't miss it. Was Gibney hoping his mum would see this film and be proud of her little boy? So do wait for the ending. No hints other than it's a quote from out of nowhere by Carl Sagan. It's so inappropriate - it'll pin the needle on your Cringe-O-Meter™ - that you'll be wondering why you wasted your time.

'We Steal Secrets'? More like 'Gibney: Aliens Ate My Brain'. Avoid.

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