What can this political thriller teach us about the people who come forward to expose wrongdoing in the world?
It takes a lot of guts to be a whistleblower. You only have to ask Christopher Wylie, former employee of political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, how things transpired when he recently went public with the fact that Facebook had mined the data from 87 million of its users to potentially sway voters and election results across the world.
Catapulted overnight into the eye of a media storm, both Wylie’s personal and professional lives were cast under scrutiny and threat. In a final blow, he was also banned from the popular social media site that he blew the whistle on in the first place.
“If you’ve done something wrong, the first step is to try to own up and tell people about it,” he said to a crowd of journalists gathered at London’s Frontline Club in March. “I’m on my first step.”
Wylie’s actions trod the path of other dissidents. Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning: These are the simultaneous traitors and patriots that define the troubled political age we’re in – one of technology, conspiracy and secrets.
In light of Wylie’s confessions, it seems timely that the topic forms a central part of the plot for upcoming film Backstabbing for Beginners, set for release on 19th April.
Based on the true story of United Nations (UN) whistleblower Michael Soussan, the film charts the unfolding scandal of the UN Oil-for-Food Programme. Launched in 1995, the humanitarian scheme allowed an economically-sanctioned Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s regime to trade oil in exchange for food and medicine for its citizens.
Soussan, then 24 years old – the same age as Wylie when he broke the news – thought he had found the biggest opportunity of his career to really make a difference. But as he began to examine where the money was going, he found that things didn’t add up and traced corruption to the very heart of the UN.
“Our mission was a very bizarre one,” he recounted to YouTube news commentary show The Young Turks in 2010. “We were supposed to make sure that the billions of dollars that were generated through these oil sales were actually used for humanitarian purposes.
“One of the reasons I became a whistleblower on this is because I thought we’d be better off with an organisation that is transparent, at least, to the public, than with one where these [world] powers can do every deal they want behind closed doors.”
But while it’s easy to blame a regime or agenda for what happened back then, for actor Ben Kingsley, who plays Sevan ‘Pasha’ Benon, the charismatic UN diplomat at the heart of the scandal, it’s equally important that audiences look beyond the political quagmire to see the human errors behind it.
“You see, what you have to look for are the pure patterns of behaviour,” he told blockbuster.dk at the film’s premiere in Denmark. “It is not sensationalist, it is not propaganda, it is about how people behave under pressure and in crisis.”
Also starring: Theo James, Jacqueline Bisset and Rossif Sutherland
Directed by: Per Fly
Running time: 100 mins
Nicolas Cage and Robin Tunney star in this horror film where grieving couple Maggie and Ray purchase a motel in the hopes of starting a new life after the death of their daughter. As Ray witnesses the grisly murder of his first guest, he’s on a race against the clock to find the killer and save his wife.
Starring Claire Foy, this horror-thriller follows Sawyer, a young woman who has been sectioned in a psychiatric hospital after becoming convinced she’s being stalked. But when she sees her stalker in the facility, she has to figure out if her delusions are real, or if it’s all in her mind.
Masha and the Bear (G)
When Bear, a former circus performer, retires from his stage life and looks forward to a quiet existence, he’s not expecting to meet a young girl called Masha. As she gets into lots of misadventures, her new furry friend is forced to step in and learn what friendship really means.