EXCLUSIVE: Julian Assange-produced doc sees VOD success; heads for free US release.

WikiLeaks documentary Mediastan, produced by Julian Assange and Ken Loach’s Sixteen Films, is being released for free online in step with the global theatrical release of DreamWorks’ WikiLeaks drama The Fifth Estate.

The unusual release strategy has been adopted in part to piggyback off the buzz generated by the marketing of DreamWorks’ drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch and in part as a riposte from Assange who has been widely critical of the Hollywood film.

‘Road-documentary’ Mediastan follows a small group of WikiLeaks associates 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.

The documentary was made available for free in the UK on YouTube last weekend and was also available globally to stream and buy via four online sites, starting at £1 per transaction.

According to Mediastan’s producers and sales company Journeyman Pictures, the documentary generated 40,000 views worldwide, including 10,000 paid views. A total of 26% of those views originated in the US.

The film will be available for free on YouTube in the US and Canada this Saturday (Oct 19), the same weekend The Fifth Estate is released in the US. It will subsequently be made available free for a limited period in those territories in which The Fifth Estate opens across the world.

The Fifth Estate generated £500,000 at the UK box office on debut last weekend.

Mediastan producer Lauren Dark told ScreenDaily: “We wanted to offer some free counter-programming to The Fifth Estate. From Julian’s perspective there are two sides to this story.

“If you are interested in The Fifth Estate you might also be interested in the inner workings of WikiLeaks associates.

“We feel like Mediastan is an online film in many ways. Considering the audience at which it’s aimed, we didn’t think this was either right or economical for traditional distribution.”

“The Fifth Estate made around £502,500 in the UK last weekend. At £10 a ticket, that equates to about 50,000 people. So, essentially more people across the world saw Mediastan this weekend than saw The Fifth Estate in the UK.”

According to producers, there were around 17,000 pirate views of the documentary.

Mediastan debuted at the Raindance Film Festival earlier this month.