A superb film shows the real consequences on the wife and father of Julian Assange.
In its own way, Lawrence’s film – with its moving soundtrack by #Brian Eno, anything less is an attempt to put that light back where it belongs. Hope it’s not too late.
Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States becomes clearerMore than eleven years after the WikiLeaks co-founder turned himself in to British police, London is set to authorize his extradition to the United States.
Published on 6.6.2022 by Karl Quinn.
A superb film shows the true tribute paid by the wife and father of Julian Assange.
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During the inauguration of a statue of her husband in Geneva in November 2021, Stella Moris declared: “I am here to remind you that Julian is not a name, he is not a symbol, he is a man and he suffers. »
The Julian in question is Assange, and that simple statement is what Ben Lawrence’s superb two-part documentary Ithaka is all about.
The Australian Wikileaks founder has been a wanted man since 2010, when US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning leaked documents that were later published jointly with the Guardian, New York Times and Der Spiegel , revealing war crimes committed by the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Criminal investigations for computer crimes, for alleged sexual assault, for espionage follow one another quickly. Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012, but was kicked out in April 2019, allowing the US government to seek his extradition. If successful, and if found guilty,
Assange faces up to 175 years in prison.
This is where Lawrence comes in, at the instigation of Gabriel Shipton, Julian’s half-brother. Assange remains almost entirely out of sight, reduced to disembodied snippets of voice in phone calls from prison, so the focus is on the two people who do the most to champion his cause: his wife Moris and his father. John Shipton.
The latter is a particularly fascinating character, not least because – despite his protestations to the contrary – the apple clearly didn’t fall far from the tree.
When Julian is diagnosed with autism, Lawrence asks Shipton what he thinks, and Shipton reflects on his own struggles as a young man connecting with people. “You could say we were Aspergic, and by dint of suffering, we learned the technique,” he says. “Then I started to relearn what these curious creatures we call human beings are. Moreover, I had a burning desire to give love. »
He’s sweet, sometimes pungent, prone to frustration when people push questions like “how do you feel”, and unerringly direct. When an NBC reporter asks him if he thinks Julian has ever been naive, he replies, “Expecting states to obey their own laws is hardly naive.”
John hasn’t been present in his son’s life from the age of three until his mid-twenties, and one senses that while he firmly believes in the principle involved, he’s also making amends. But it comes at a huge cost: At 76, he has a five-year-old daughter in Australia, and the year he spent in London fighting for his son is time he will never be reunited with his daughter. .
Lawyer Moris, meanwhile, has two children with Assange. They had fleeting moments together at the embassy, but the unveiling of the statue, she says through tears, is the first time she’s seen him in three dimensions since a judge ruled against his extradition 10 months earlier.
This verdict was not based on the fact that the United States had no grounds to prosecute Assange for receiving and publishing information, which is the basis of journalism (it should be noted that only he faces espionage charges, not any of the editors who co-published). They felt his mental health was so fragile that he would likely end up dying by his own hand if extradition were ordered.
Assange is still in prison, the United States is appealing the verdict, and the central issue remains: a human being and the freedom of the press are under attack. The mixed feelings one may have towards Assange should not hide this fact.
Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, puts the situation perfectly when he admits that when Assange’s team reached out to him, his first instinct was to ignore them. “I think we’ve all had [de tels préjugés] at some point, he says, because this is the public narrative that has been in the media for 10 years, and no one has been able to see why it was done. »
Assange “never wanted it to be him” in the limelight, claims Melzer. “It was about the United States, its war crimes and its corruption. That’s what he wanted to shine the spotlight on, and he did, and that’s what angered them. And they put the spotlight on him. »
In its own way, Lawrence’s film – with its stirring Brian Eno-signed soundtrack, no less – is an attempt to put that light back where it belongs. Let’s hope it’s not too late.
Ithaka airs on ABC TV June 7 and 14 at 8:30 p.m.
“There is no doubt that Julian Assange provokes strong and contradictory responses, but in some respects the case is simple: it is about the right to know and about human rights. Pt1 of #ithaka is on @ABCTV tomorrow evening @theage @smh”