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This documentary serves as a real life thriller, unfolding by the minute, recording filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald's encounters with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA). Poitras had already been working on a film about surveillance when Snowden contacted her, using the name "Citizenfour," in January 2013, reaching out to her because he knew she had long been a target of government surveillance herself and had refused to be intimidated. When Snowden revealed he was a high-level analyst driven to expose the massive surveillance of Americans by the NSA, Poitras persuaded him to let her film. As Poitras, Greenwald, and Snowden attempt to manage the media storm raging outside, they are forced to make quick decisions that will impact their lives and all of those around them.