Ithaka continues the conversation around the imprisoned Julian Assange and his right to freedom.
Ithaka was screened as part of Sheffield DocFest alongside a live Q&A session with Julian Assange’s father, John Shipton, and wife Stella Assange. All words of this review were written entirely by the writers at Cinamore. The documentary, and subsequently this review tackle content themes of suicide and self-harm.
Ithaka, directed by Ben Lawrence, first and foremost reinforces the concept that journalists, such as myself, are entitled to freedom of the press without fear of arrest, torture or the destruction of our human rights.
Yet, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is treated as the exception.
Someone to break, imprison and belittle, setting the precedent for journalists worldwide that if a Western government disagrees you could lose your life as a result.
Though the film of Ithaka is more than this.
It shows the lengths Julian’s support network of his wife, Stella Assange, and father, John Shipton is going to rally together to bring Julian freedom and hope.
“What do you do when you’re faced with a gargantuan injustice, particularly when it’s perpetuated upon your child?” rhetorically asked John after the screening.
Julian Assange is currently facing deportation to the United States of America where he is to be tried under charges of espionage in addition to further charges.
Assange was first arrested following leaks regarding the Iraq war and the war crimes committed by American troops against innocent bystanders.
If successfully charged, he will become the first journalist to be charged with espionage and will face upwards of 175 years in the most secure prison in the country, ADX Florence in Colorado.
The poignancy of this film cannot be understated.
It had its international premiere at Sheffield DocFest exactly one week after Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP gave the green light for the extradition order sending Assange to America for prosecution.
If successfully imprisoned, Assange will set the precedent for journalism to become tarnished and altered by larger bodies censoring and correcting to fit an agenda.
However, Ithaka takes control of the dialogue the government is trying to push. Assange is less a monster, but a criminal trapped and tormented by his indictment, the repercussions of which affect his own well-being, and his relationships with his wife Stella and father John.
After all, Julian Assange is a man first and foremost, not a symbol of authoritarian oppression that many have snowballed Julian Assange to become.
Tackling his mental health, and professional evaluations that speak candidly about Assange’s depressed state, and history of self-harm, the film offers two possibilities for the Australian whistleblower: freedom, or death.
Whether you agree with Assange’s actions or the legality behind the decisions, Ithaka asks the question creating doubt and making you reaffirm your beliefs one way or the other.
Personally, as a journalist, I’ve previously whistleblown and shared information with fellow journalists about wrongdoings that I was aware of. For me at least, Assange, if sentenced, will be the undoing of journalism as we know it.
I am struggling to put into words the wave of emotion that overcame me after seeing Ithaka. Frustration, anger, disillusionment and disappointment are all labelled under the bureaucracy of Western democracy meant to be protecting our right to report and publish the truth, or at the very least, our personal truths.
How one man could be criminalised and lose so much of his life over exposing the truth is the horror of an Orwellian dystopia which Ithaka rightfully exposes.
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