IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF UNITED STATES VS. REALITY WINNER!
The SXSW Film Festival has a wide range of diverse documentaries that bring you inspiring stories and sometimes scary realities, and that is where United States vs. Reality Winner fits. This is the story of 25-year-old NSA-contractor Reality Winner, who got arrested and is still serving time from a whistleblowing case that took place not so long ago, in which Reality allegedly made a very secretive and confidential document circulate online about the Russian manipulation of the US elections, when Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the country. Never having a chance to prove herself, Reality was questioned by the FBI without a lawyer present during that questioning, making her vulnerable to being prosecuted without proper defence. It’s a haunting, revolting tale of how the Trump administration operated after the former president fired the previous FBI director James Comey.
It’s a documentary that deconstructs this case by focusing on audio files obtained exclusively by the team, and has the help of Edward Snowden to enlighten the audience about the dangers of whistleblowing, while following the day to day life of Reality’s family. Directed by Sonia Kennebeck, United States vs. Reality Winner is a tough film to follow, as it becomes dense with material that sometimes feels a bit scattered throughout its runtime and not always knowing where to fit particular images, making it a bit edgy on some aspects. But its story and its spirit in trying to help the subject in which it is based on, ultimately helps the documentary make an extremely brave point about how the United States became such a dangerous country to live under Trump’s ruling. Reality’s story is tragic and it reminds us that the truth will always prevail in the fight against injustice, against tyranny, and against abuse of power. Reality Winner may actually use her real name as a motto to sustain her bravery: a winner of nowadays reality.
Even though the documentary could have been more intense on some occasions, this interesting and raw urban tale reflects on the quest of Reality’s family in seeking justice for her and desperately trying to get her out of prison, which makes it more personal and intimate. United States vs. Reality Winner is a true crime example that illustrates how the truth is always the first one to be condemned in an oppressive political environment and the ruthlessness of high security agencies that use their power to confuse people about their true intentions. With the presence of Snowden, Kennebeck manages to input a perspective of a person that empathically understands the severity of the situation in which Reality finds herself now, making it a brave and dedicated documentary that always tries to justify its main goals. Although sometimes we feel a bit lost among all this information, United States vs. Reality Winner is an ode against injustice and opens the eyes of the United States citizens about the dangers of endorsing oppressive political regimes and easy manipulated presidents.
Will there be a time where Reality Winner is going to leave prison? We will probably not know in the near future, but at least United States vs. Reality Winner will make people talking about her and how it is essential to fight the system in order for the truth to prevail. Not perfect, but not forgettable, this documentary will engage many about its delicate centerpiece, but most importantly, will stir up conversation about the unfair situation of Reality Winner and the importance that whistleblowers have and the dangers of living under their skin.
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Title: United States vs. Reality Winner
Original Title: United States vs. Reality Winner
Director: Sonia Kennebeck
Runtime: 93 min.
Trailer | United States vs. Reality Winner