The Fifth Estate, the film starring Benedict Cumberbatch as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has been condemned by Assange himself and WikiLeaks released a memo labeling the film “irresponsible."

The Fifth Estate follows the rise of Assange and the creation of WikiLeaks that took the world by storm and forced Assange into hiding after the organization published classified documents. It received a standing ovation when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.

The memo claims that the site has obtained and published a “mature version” of the script and insists that The Fifth Estate inaccurately vilifies WikiLeaks and exaggerates the damage caused (if any) to the US intelligence and government.

“The film is fictional. Most of the events depicted never happened, or the people shown were not involved in them. It has real names, real places, and looks like it is covering real events, but it is still a dramatic and cinematic work, and it invents or shapes the facts to fit its narrative goals,” the memo reads.

WikiLeaks also released written correspondence between Assange and Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch reportedly reached out to Assange prior to filming and asked if he might want to meet, but Assange refused.

“You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it. To present me as someone morally compromised and to place me in a falsified history. To create a work, not of fiction, but of debased truth,” Assange wrote, encouraging Cumberbatch to drop out of the film.

With respect to Cumberbatch, who has been receiving rave reviews for his performance in the film, Assange and WikiLeaks state that his reply was “courteous and considered.” There seems to be no ill will directed at the performers.

“People love the true WikiLeaks story: a small group of dedicated journalists and tech activists who take on corruption and state criminality against the odds. But this film isn’t about that. This is a film by the old media about the new media. Viewers are short-changed… Instead of the exciting true story, we get a film about a bland German IT worker who wasn’t even there and a fabricated fight over redactions with the old newspapers and the State Department saving the day. The result is a geriatric snoozefest that only the US government could love,” Assange says of the film.

WikiLeaks appears to take offense at the allegation that WikiLeaks’ decision to publish classified documents put any US personel at risk, writing in the memo:

“Despite spending millions of dollars over three years in preparation for the trail of Private Manning, the US government was unable to present any evidence of anyone coming to harm as a consequence of the WikiLeaks publications.”

Finally, WikiLeaks warns viewers of the social ramifications of taking The Fifth Estate as fact instead of fiction and admonishes the filmmakers for misrepresenting them in a widespread media form that can influence a large number of people, whether intended or not.

“There are high stakes involved in how WikiLeaks is perceived. This film does not occur in a historical vacuum, but appears in the context of ongoing efforts to bring a criminal prosecution against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for exposing the activities of the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department. The film also occurs in the context of Pvt. Manning’s upcoming appeal and request for a presidential pardon.

“People should not in any way treat this film as an historical account of WikiLeaks, its activities or its personnel. Hopefully, they will be inspired to approach the topic with an open mind, and to support WikiLeaks.”

The Fifth Estate will be in theaters everywhere Oct. 18.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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