With the recent onslaught of worrying executive actions from the new Trump administration (coupled with awful implications concerning freedom of press), it could be easy to forget the disruption of civil liberties already plaguing the so-called United States of America. From Sundance 2017 and the Laura Poitras, director of the acclaimed Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour, comes Project X – a stark reminder that the NSA is probably watching you.
There’s not much in the way of flash or reenactment in this 10 minute documentary. Project X is minimalist, but effective in making a small but crucial piece of information hit home: US telecoms company AT&T has partnered with the NSA to spy on US citizens, the World Bank, and 38 other countries.
Some of the technical aspects of this partnership are delivered in two monotone voiceovers from Rami Malek (appropriately, of Mr. Robot fame) and Michelle Williams (recently Oscar nominated for her part in Manchester By The Sea) – taken straight from the NSA undercover handbook, and an engineers guide to the monolithic structure of TITANPOINTE, a secret AT&T data centre at 33 Thomas St in New York City.
There are no interviews; the people that actually appear in Project X are mainly window dressing as the camera glides through the city, from a secret location to the data centre.
A droning, haunting soundtrack underlines the sinister information being departed. The two actors’ almost robotic voices tell us with precision how the intelligence agency goes about acquiring your emails.
All of this is a simple and very disturbing reminder from Moltke and Poitras that the agency doesn’t particularly care whether or not they should be doing this, it only matters that they can.
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CAST: Rami Malek, Michelle Williams
DIRECTORS: Laura Poitras and Henrik Moltke
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Jarred Alterman and Henrik Moltke
SYNOPSIS: Narrated by Rami Malek and Michelle Williams, and based on classified NSA documents, Project X reveals the inner workings of a windowless skyscraper in downtown Manhattan.