Hong Kongers Have Already Made a Movie About Edward Snowden

The NSA whistleblower may have only spent a month in the Chinese territory, but that was enough to inspire a group of local artists to capture his story on film.

Hong Kong is a city accustomed to generating a lot of news -- the territory manufactures its fair share of film stars, celebrity scandals, and political controversies. The arrival of intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has thrust Hong Kong into the international spotlight, however, and despite his abrupt departure some Hong Kong-based artists managed to take advantage of his stay.

In the spirit of ingenuity, a group of four filmmakers has released a 5-minute film, titled Verax, that retraces the Snowden saga from the release of his interview with The Guardian to the frantic attempt to track down his location. Putting together a professional film on such short notice is a daunting task, but an article from the South China Morning Post reports that cinematographer and editor Edwin Lee described the project as "invigorating." 

The film is most notable for its rapid development, of course, but its also raises some interesting questions about the changing nature of news media and privacy. Snowden's leaks revealed, among other things, that the NSA has collected massive quantities of metadata and has access to personal information from numerous social networking sites. Though disconcerting, these revelations hardly come as a shock to Hong Kongers. Characteristically, while Hong Kong citizens were proud that Snowden had chosen to take refuge in their hometown, they understood that "in the end ... he did [what was] best for himself."

The release and popularity of Verax encapsulates how entertainment, news, sensationalism, and reality are difficult to disentangle in places like Hong Kong -- a territory which has long been used to watching itself being watched. 

This post is part of a collaboration between The Atlantic and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Josiah Tsui studies U.S. foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

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