I’d never heard of the Media, Pennsylvania, break-in, but it was, in many ways, the brick-and-mortar-and-paper precursor to WikiLeaks and the NSA files. An unknown group raided an FBI office in 1971 and distributed top secret files to Congress and various media outlets. The files revealed all sorts of unbelievable things — attempts to infiltrate antiwar groups with informants and agents provocateurs, for example — and was the first indication to many Americans that their government may not have always had their best interests at heart.
The identities of the intruders were not known until they revealed themselves for this documentary, which features both interviews and reenactments. That already gives it a certain amount of must-see cachet. But what really makes Johanna Hamilton’s film so resonant and distinctive is the way it portrays the eight activists at the center of this operation as an extended family, delving into their personal relationships and their profound disillusion at the political environment around them. It’s a film that subtly, implicitly makes you question what you would do — which in turn offers an interesting new lens through which to view the controversy swirling around figures like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.