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‘Reality’ recreates fateful day for whistleblower in Berlinale premiere

Cast members Marchant Davis, Sydney Sweeney, Josh Hamilton and Director Tina Satter attend a photo call to promote the movie 'Reality' at the 73rd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 18, 2023. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

Former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner leaked government documents in the first year of the Trump administration and received the longest sentence ever given in the United States for leaking to the media, yet she receives less recognition than Edward Snowden or Julian Assange.

Director Tina Satter aims to change that with the movie “Reality,” a 85-minute re-enactment of the day FBI agents came to Winner’s house based off the transcript of the audio they recorded which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday.

“I want them to understand Reality Winner and her life, not her whole life from this, but pay attention to who she is and just understand how important whistleblowers are to the democracy of the United States,” Satter told Reuters on the red carpet at the Zoo Palast theatre in the German capital’s ritzy west.

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Winner’s sister and mother also attended the premiere, prompting a burst of applause from the crowded theatre.

Winner was sentenced to over five years in prison in 2018 under the Espionage Act for leaking a top secret report to The Intercept website about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

The report detailed efforts to launch at least one cyber attack on U.S. voting software supplier and send “spear-phishing” emails to more than 100 local election officials, days before the election.

She was released in June 2021 and is on supervised release until November 2024.

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By remaining faithful to the transcript, the film relies on Sydney Sweeney, known for “Euphoria” and “The White Lotus,” to colour in Winner’s nervous attempts at humour and awkward small talk about pets with the simultaneously threatening and dopey main agents, played by Josh Hamilton and Marchant Davis.

“After spending time speaking with her, I wanted to make sure that I captured her as much as possible,” said Sweeney.

“I hope that they see this moment in a woman’s life, that it was a really hard decision to make, and to not reduce Reality to just a headline,” she added.

(This story has been refiled to fix the spelling of ‘Euphoria,’ not ‘Europhoria,’ in paragraph 8)

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