"Fifth Estate" screens after school Thursday in Ahmanson

Seats are first-come, first-serve at a free screening this Thursday afternoon at 2:45 p.m. of the new DreamWorks film, “The Fifth Estate”, about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The Chronicle is hosting the screening, and refreshments will be served outside Ahmanson Lecture hall. The film, which is rated R, lasts two hours and five minutes.

WikiLeaks is an international organization that publishes secret information and classified data.

Students, faculty and parents are invited to view the free screening, which was offered to the school by Stacey Snider (Katie Jones ’15, Natalie Jones ’17), CEO and co-chairman of DreamWorks Studios.

Last year, Snider provided a copy of “Lincoln” for the school to have a preview.

“The Fifth Estate” is based on Assange’s exploits and the website he created in 2006, which relies on the collaboration of volunteers as well as the team behind the website to operate. Journalists or whistle-blowers submit documents to a drop-box to ensure they do not get jailed for sharing such information.

The goal of WikiLeaks is “to bring important news and information to the public,” the website stated. “One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth.”

In November 2010, WikiLeaks collaborated with global media organizations to release U.S. State Department papers, divulging confidential military strategy and diplomatic proceedings. After attempting to leak Afghan war logs to the Washington Post and New York Times, former U.S. Army private Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley, contacted Assange and released the documents and videos of airstrikes via WikiLeaks. Manning has since been sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Assange is currently living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid arrest for a sexual assault investigation in Sweden.

Were he to leave the embassy, he would be extradited to Sweden to face charges, which might ultimately result in his extradition to the United States to face charges over the diplomatic cables case.

“To me, education is about presenting ideas and having the students create the analysis,” Director of Student Affairs Jordan Church said. “Hopefully it is framed in a way that’s one side of the conversation, and we can have the other side. In school you’ve been taught that there’s one right answer and it’s in the back of the book; so something like this involves a discussion.”

The Chronicle was asked to host the screening by Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts, who thought this movie would be an appropriate one for journalism to sponsor, given that WikiLeaks raises questions of journalistic responsibility and ethics, communications department head Kathleen Neumeyer said.

Upper school history teacher Francine Werner ’68 echoed Church’s sentiments as she believed this would be a way for people to talk about the situation and that “[Assange] shouldn’t be glorified or vilified, but he’s someone worth looking at and investigating.”

“I don’t know if he’s driven by some obligation for humanity or if he’s just an egomaniac, it’s hard to tell,” she continued.

The film, starring British actor Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange, will be screened eight days before its official release.

The film originally premiered at the Toronto Film Festival early September.

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