Director Ben Lawrence’s fly-on-the-wall documentary, ITHAKA, weaves together historic archive and intimate behind-the-scenes footage, as it tracks WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s father, John Shipton and Assange’s wife Stella Moris as they join forces to advocate for Julian’s freedom. We witness Shipton’s European odyssey to rally a global network of supporters, advocate to politicians and cautiously step into the media’s glare for his son. With Julian facing the possibility of extradition to the US, his family members are confronting the prospect of losing Julian forever to the abyss of the US justice system. The world’s most famous political prisoner, Julian Assange, has become an emblem of an international struggle over freedom of journalism, government corruption and unpunished war crimes. In light of Julian’s health declining in a British maximum-security prison and the American government pushing for him to face trial in the America, this David-and-Goliath struggle has become deeply personal for John and Stella. Director Ben Lawrence joins us to talk about ITHAKA’s timely reminder of the global issues at stake in this case, as well as an insight into the personal toll inflicted by the arduous, often lonely task of fighting for a cause bigger than oneself.
About the filmmaker – Nominated by Australia’s most prestigious journalism awards in 2022, Ben Lawrence is also a four-time Australian Writers Guild Award winner across feature film, documentary and podcast categories. His films have screened at Toronto, Busan, Sydney, Edinburgh, Clermont-Ferrand, Sitges, Sheffield, DocNYC, Melbourne, Palm Springs, Taormina, Tallin and Sao Paulo Film Festivals. In 2020 he was awarded the Australian Directors Guild highest award for his feature film, Hearts and Bones – which starred Hugo Weaving and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. His 2018 documentary, Ghosthunter won the Sydney Film Festival Best Documentary award and was nominated for the esteemed Illuminate Award at Sheffield DocFest. His Audible podcast based on Ghosthunter, which he presented & co-wrote was voted top 5 podcasts of 2019 by Rolling Stone Magazine. His latest documentary, Ithaka was also an Australian Academy of Cinema & TV Award nominee and and opened the Berlin Human Rights Film festival – where it won the Audience Award and also screened in competition at the Sydney, DocNYC, Sheffield and DocEdge Festival – where Ben was awarded Best International Director.
“The heart-rending personal story of Assange’s family’s battle to free him” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
This is a fascinating in-depth study of Assange as he is reflected in the awards bestowed, and the people and the eminent organisations that have rallied around him.- Jane Freebury, The Canberra Times (Australia)
“Ithaka does make a strong argument for the notion that he’s being targeted precisely to nail shut any future leakage of inconvenient government secrets… never mind those pesky First Amendment protections.” – Dennis Harvey, 48 Hills
“A Masterful Piece of Film Making” – Dirty Movies
“A valuable and important piece of cinema that is completely riveting” – Margaret Pomeranz