Alex Gibney has become the first documentary filmmaker to receive the Writers Guild of America, West’s Paul Selvin Award, the WGAW announced on Wednesday.
The award goes to a WGA member whose script, in the words of the guild, “best embodies the spirit of constitutional and civil rights and liberties.” Gibney will receive it for his documentary “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WilkiLeaks.”
The documentary follows the rise of Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, and focuses on the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who was sentenced to prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.
“[Gibney’s] work has been a filmic conscience for our times,” said WGAW president Christopher Keyser in a statement announcing the award. “In ‘We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,’ Mr. Gibney tackles issues arising out of us living, increasingly, in a surveillance state – from the public’s right to know and the press’ right to publish, to the treatment of whistleblowers. The work raises questions that are fundamental to the preservation of our constitutional and civil rights and liberties.”
Assange criticized the movie when it was released by posting an annotated (but incomplete) transcript of the film online.
“We Steal Secrets” is one of two documentaries that Gibney released in 2013; the other, “The Armstrong Lie,” is on the Oscar shortlist of 15 films still in the running for the doc award.
Previous recipients of the Paul Selvin Award have included Tony Kushner for “Lincoln,” Tate Taylor for “The Help,” Dustin Lance Black for “Milk” and Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander for “The People Vs. Larry Flynt.”
Gibney will receive the award at the WGA ceremony on Feb. 1 at the JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles.