WikiLeaks founder talks about first feature production Mediastan and future projects after Raindance screening.
The Julian Assange and Sixteen Films-produced documentary Mediastan is heading to Russia after its world premiere last night at the Raindance Film Festival in London.
The documentary about censorship will next play on Sunday at Moscow’s 2morrow International Film Festival.
Mediastan follows a small group of journalists as they travel through remote parts of Central Asia seeking national newspaper editors prepared to publish sensitive cables about the local area obtained by WikiLeaks.
Assange, though under house arrest in Britain while the project was filming, joined meetings vicariously via Skype to explain the content and describe the ramifications of publishing it.
In a Skype interview with Assange after the Raindance screening, the WikiLeaks founder, who is living in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, explained his reason for making the film: “We are exploring the borders of this place we live in called ‘Mediastan’…The ‘stans’ themselves are geopolitically and culturally a fascinating place. This documentary hints at that in different ways.”
“The region is the cream in the layer cake,” he continued. “At the top you have Russia, at the bottom you have China, and the US has peppered the area with military bases, agreements and various forces of influence.”
The controversial figure quoted French writer Voltaire when summing up the film’s message: “To understand who controls you, understand who you can’t talk about,” he said.
Assange disclosed that he is also working on a South American documentary by filmmaker Juan Luis Passarelli.
Rebecca O’Brien and Lauren Dark of Ken Loach’s production company Sixteen Films produced Mediastan with Assange and director Johannes Wahlstrom. Loach, O’Brien and Dark were able to visit Assange at the Embassy during production.
Wahlstrom said of the film: “The problem of the ‘Mediastan’ state of mind is the assumption that mankind are sheep. To me that is a very offensive idea.”
The production is currently in negotiations with potential distributors.
In response to an audience question about how he sees his own personal predicament unfolding, Assange said: “The release of Mediastan will draw people into wanting to solve this situation… It’s an interesting situation, but a lot of people are in considerably more adverse situations than I am in. My primary concern is not the situation I’m in but the situation I might be in outside the Embassy. The same situation you all could be in.”
The Australian editor-in-chief and founder of WikiLeaks took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about sexual assault allegations.
It is understood that he fears Sweden would extradite him to the US, where he is wanted in relation to WikiLeaks’ disclosure of a significant amount of classified US military and diplomatic documents.