Official Secrets – BFI London Screening

Martin Bright, Katharine Gun and Gavin Hood – Embankment LFF

I saw ‘Official Secrets‘ at the BFI London Film Festival last week and I absolutely loved it. I am genuinely not a big fan of Keira Knightly but she did a brilliant job in this movie. Official Secrets is a political drama about Katharine Gun, who worked at the GCHQ as a mandarin translator back in 2003. Have you hear about her? I am going to be honest here, I haven’t either before coming to this screening and I feel quite bad about this, actually.

Check out below the director, Gavin Hood talking about Katharine’s story, and when he first heard about her:

“Sorry Katharine, I didn’t know your story either but your story got overwritten by a much bigger story 3 days later when we went to war.”

While working at the GCHQ, Katharine’s job was to listen on phone calls, gather intelligence and take notes of any suspicious activity. Then,one day she and her colleagues received an email from Frank Koza – chief of staff at the US National Security Agency (NSA) – asking for their help to bug several UN delegates’s offices and look into their lives.

The year was 2003, Tony Blair was the Prime Minister in the UK and in the USA, George Bush was sitting at the oval office, ready to star a war with Iraq. The UN Security Council was about to vote or whether or not approve the invasion of Iraq and the classified email was asking the employees at the GCHQ to find information that could potentially be used to blackmail them. Katharine Gun printed the email, gave it to a friend and 2 March, 2003 it was printed on the front page of the Observer. The journalist, who published the memo is Martin Bright, he is played by Matt Smith, brilliantly in this film. A couple of days later, Gun confessed to her supervisor and spent one night in police custody, without being charged under the Official Secrets Act. When she was asked why she leaked the memo, she responded:

“I work for the British people. I do not gather intelligence so the government can lie to the British people.”

At the screening, there were a lot of people in support of the release of this production. Katharine Gun’s husband, her daughter, Martin Bright, Ben Emmerson – the human rights lawyer who defended Gun and of course Gavin Hood and Keira Knightley.

Keira Knightley on her role in ‘Official Secrets’

The movie couldn’t be more timely, I guess with all the madness going around in the US government, their whistle-blowers and the absolute incapability of tr**p to represent their nation and protect their country. The government has always been manipulating the public opinion, but in this instance we do have forensic evidence to prove it.

And for this, we have to thank Katharine Gun for all her sacrifices. She has lost everything in order to try and stop an illegal war. As we all know, she didn’t succeed but that should not be the story we take away from this. She put herself in danger, she put her Kurdish husband Yasar in danger, she jeopardised her life and she nearly ended up in jail for doing the right thing.

Katharine Gun is a national hero and more people should know her story. I read some reviews about the movie where journalist are complaining that its missing drama and its not focusing on the right angles. And I have a message to all of you: Fuck off! The drama is there its just hasn’t been blown out of proportion, nor it needs to. We are seeing a strong, inspirational woman fighting for the better good. She is trying to stop one an illegal war while being chased by the British Government. One would think, that’s enough drama for y’all lame ass.

So, yes I think the movie is great, and we should all go and watch it. Then go home and read a bit more about Katharine Gun and let’s hope that if it ever comes to that, we will also stand up and choose the right path, just like Katharine did.

London Film Festival, Embankment, 2019

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