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Monday, March 25, 2019

TORONTO, Canada (AFP) – A veil of secrecy was draped ironically around a new movie charting the rise of WikiLeaks as the whistle-blower drama prepared to open the Toronto International Film Festival.

A press preview of the film “The Fifth Estate” scheduled before its world premiere later Thursday was canceled at the last minute without any explanation.

Promoters also restricted access to director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls” and “The Twilight Saga”) before showtime. Film festival organizers said they were not given any reason for the canceled screening.

Not giving critics an opportunity to see a film before its release “never speaks well of the distributor’s anticipation of critical reaction to a film,” commented Toronto’s Now entertainment newspaper.

“Is it ironic that the press won’t be able to declassify an Assange movie before the public can reach its own conclusions? Is TIFF effectively WikiLeaking its WikiLeaks movie?” it said.

The film is based on books “WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website” by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s once-trusted lieutenant and former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy” by David Leigh and Luke Harding.

It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange and Daniel Bruhl as the activist’s confidant Domscheit-Berg.

Assange himself has panned the film, saying that it is a pack of lies and “a massive propaganda attack on WikiLeaks and the character of my staff,” after reportedly seeing a copy of the script.

“It is a lie upon a lie,” he told a group of Oxford University students earlier this year.

In particular, Assange assailed the film’s portrayal of Iran as absolutely determined to build a nuclear bomb, an accusation denied by Tehran, but it was not in the final cut.

Instead Condon added Assange’s poke at the film, in a postscript.

The filmmaker also reacted in a statement, saying that it may be decades before the impact of WikiLeaks is fully understood, and the film “won’t claim any long view authority on its subject, or attempt any final judgment.”

“We want to explore the complexities and challenges of transparency in the information age and, we hope, enliven and enrich the conversations WikiLeaks has already provoked.”

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