Recently praised at IDFA 2022 for her ‘unflinching examination of oppression, representation and resistance’ Laura Poitras is no stranger to approaching challenging subjects and stories.
Her most recent film, Oscar-nominated All the Beauty and the Bloodshed takes on the controversial Sackler family through the eyes and ideas of Nan Goldin, a film in which Goldin’s unrelenting approach to exposing uncomfortable truths mirrors the director’s own ethos.
While Poitras’s feature films represent a catalogue of modern day injustices – from the US occupation of Iraq and disregard of law in Guantanamo Bay to the unfortunate cases of Edward Snowden and Juilan Assange – in this blog we focus on Poitras’s short films, specifically her work with Field of Vision and Forensic Architecture. Whether acting as Executive Producer or Director, these films are an extension of Poitras’s focus and ideas.
Dir. Laura Poitras, 25mins, 2021
Co-produced with Forensic Architecture, Poitras’s most recent short film as director is ‘a visual study of the investigation by Forensic Architecture into the Israeli cyberweapons manufacturer NSO Group and the use of its Pegasus malware to target journalists and human rights defenders worldwide.’ Created as part of the anthology film The Year of the Everlasting Storm, Terror Contagion is a timely document of the use of technology to spread fear and terror.
Church and the Fourth Estate
Dir. Brian Knappenberger / Executive Producer Laura Poitras, 33mins, 2020
In this far reaching short documentary Knappenberger exposes the tip of the iceberg of child abuse in small town America, what institutions are willing to do to protect themselves, and the journalists working in a David and Goliath fight to hold these powerful institutions to account and expose injustices. Knappenberger commented at the time of release that “documentary filmmaking and journalism at its best does look at powerful forces that are behaving badly, and exposes them … I think that’s what we’re meant to do.”
Days of Black and Yellow
Dir. Ray Levé, Willie Miesmer, Lotfy Nathan / Executive Producer Laura Poitras, 11mins, 2019
Simultaneously an ode to the New York City black and yellow taxi cab and an elegy to those once occupied as their drivers, this short once again tackles how the bigger picture exists in the minute. How can individuals survive in the face of big tech and the huge advances happening in that world which affect everyone? The directors plainly detail a failing industry of workers who are striving to continue doing the job they love amongst unforgiving societal change.
Dir. Anna Barsan / EP. Laura Poitras, 12mins, 2019
As seen in Days of Black and Yellow, shining a spotlight on the stories of underrepresented people living on the margins of society defines both Field of Vision and Laura’s creative output. Libre is no different. The corporate greed of ruthless American business erodes the last hope of the American Dream for those who find themselves in the struggle of forced international immigration. This is a story representative of the global existential crises of migration – how do governments humanely treat those in search of a better life?
Dir. Meredith Lackey / EP. Laura Poitras, 22mins, 2019
This rich tapestry of information investigates the puzzle of Chinese geo-political relations ranging from pre-9/11 Iraq to Africa in connection to the Chinese owned telecommunications company Huawei. Creatively constructed from conversations between a computer and a human and filled with images of technological modernity, this film is another example of the complex web of communications that has been weaponized by governments worldwide and referenced to in Poitras’ other films Citizenfour and Terror Contagion.