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Arts & Culture

Cinema Junkie Podcast 175: New Film 'Official Secrets' Celebrates Whistleblower

Actress Keira Knightley and director Gavin Hood on the set of "Official Secrets."
IFC Films
Actress Keira Knightley and director Gavin Hood on the set of "Official Secrets."

Director Gavin Hood looks to Katherine Gun and leaked memo

In honor of National Whistleblowers Appreciation Day Cinema Junkie speaks with director Gavin Hood. His new film "Official Secrets" tells the story of Katherine Gun (played by Keira Knightley), a British intelligence specialist who leaked a memo when she felt her government was lying to the people. The film has a special screening July 30 and opens in San Diego theaters on Sept. 12.

Whistleblower films

"The Harder They Fall"

"On the Waterfront"


"The Whistleblower"



"The Insider"


"The China Syndrome"

"The Most Dangerous Man in America"

"All the President's Men"

July 30 wasNational Whistleblower Appreciation Day and there was a special screening of the new film "Official Secrets," which opens in San Diego today.

In 2018, the U.S. Senate, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), unanimously passed a resolution to mark July 30 as the commemorative day to appreciate whistleblowers.

The day is meant as an annual recognition of whistleblowers whose actions have protected the American people from fraud or malfeasance. Hollywood has often celebrated whistleblowers whether it’s Humphrey Bogart exposing boxing scandals in "The Harder They Fall" or Al Pacino’s honest cop in "Serpico" trying to expose police corruption or Woodward and Bernstein breaking the story about Watergate in "All the President's Men."

Hollywood loves these stories because a whistleblower often provides material ripe for intense drama with a thrilling narrative structure but it also provides an opportunity to celebrate ordinary people who decide they need to speak out about something they know is wrong. Think of Meryl Streep’s Silkwood, a worker at a nuclear facility who worries about its safety practices or Russell Crowe’s tobacco executive who can no longer tolerate his industries lies.

"Official Secrets" tells the story of Katherine Gun. The film’s tagline reads: "She risked everything to stop an unjust war. Her government called her a traitor."

Katharine Gun (played Keira Knightley) is a British intelligence specialist whose job involves routine handling of classified information. But then one day in 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, Gun receives a memo from the NSA with a directive: the United States is enlisting Britain’s help in collecting compromising information on United Nations Security Council members in order to blackmail them into voting in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Now she is faced with a choice, leak the memo or just ignore it.

Director Gavin Hood (with films such as "Tsotsi" and "Rendition") likes stories with social awareness. He talks about the challenges of bringing this true story to the screen.