Premiere: Julian Assange as a young hacker in film "Underground"

Premiere: Julian Assange as a young hacker in film "Underground"

Summary: The Toronto International Film Festival premiers a controversial Australian TV movie about the real-life, young adult exploits of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.


If it wasn't for the Toronto International Film Festival, a film about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as a young hacker may have remained a made-for-TV movie played on major Australian commercial TV network (Network Ten) later this year. 

Premiering at the festival tomorrow September 8, Underground is a look at Assange's life as a young hacker in late 1980s Melbourne, Australia. Back then, Assange was operating under the 'nym Mendax and ran with hacker group International Subversives.

The film dramatizes several real-life events, including his relationship with his activist mother Christine Assange (played by Six Feet Under’s Rachel Griffiths), who famously gave him a Commodore 64, and the lengths she went to protect her son.

"My son sees the world differently to most people," she says in one scene.

Assange is played by young actor newcomer Alex Williams, and the film written and directed by Robert Connolly - who Twitch Film said, "has already been producer or director on such iconic films as The BoysRomulus My Father and Balibo, and who more than any other Australian director has the potential to have a Peter Weir-like career over the next 20 years."

Underground is based on the 1997 novel Underground: Tales Of Hacking, Madness And Obsession On The Electronic Frontier by Suelette Dreyfus.

It seems that Underground is only the first film about Julian Assange we'll be seeing hit the mainstream. 

One from legendary documentarian Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Freakonomics) is expected in short order. Dreamworks and several other producers are also hurrying on film adaptations from optioned books about Assange.

NBC Universal is selling the rights for all territories outside Australia, and will be distributing the film worldwide.


Topics: Australia, Government

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • No matter how anyone thinks about Assange in relation to questions in the

    ... end of promotional video for the film, he is certainly very unusual, unique person that managed to affect the world, even if a little bit. So his story is interesting.
  • Good Trailer

    Technological change usually comes through progressive evolution and refinement, and is mostly embraced, but social change tends to more both more abrupt and the result of actions by individuals and small groups, and usually not so quite so willingly embraced. Hacking, whether for good or ill intent has often straddled both, especially lately.

    As a sidebar, that song at the end is a cover of the Tears for Fears song "Mad World" done by Gary Jules.
  • Assange

    Leavenworth is lovely in autumn.
  • .. except in the prisons (according to the web).

    Seriously, it’s incredible that Assange’s plight has come to this. US politicians have lied in the most shocking way about Assange.

    - US politicians have called him "a traitor," despite the fact Assange is not a US citizen and owes the US no loyalty. (China has made not made any similarly hysterical requests, despite appearing as bad, or worse, than the US did in the WikiLeaks cables.)

    - Assange has been called "a criminal," despite the fact that he had not ever been charged with a crime in the UK, the US, or Sweden before June this year [1], when he broke his UK bail conditions while seeking political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.

    - US politicians claimed that Assange "endangered the lives of coalition forces," yet Assange worked with the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais and other newspapers to ensure that the names of (e.g.) spies were not published.

    So far, nobody has been able to point to a single person who was harmed by the publication of the diplomatic cables, or any other WikiLeaks disclosure.

    In contrast, the military gunners shown killing a dozen unarmed civilians in "Collateral Murder" have far more blood on their hands than Julian Assange, yet they have not even been charged.

    - Was Assange right to break UK law and seek political asylum in Ecuador? Given the calls by US politicians and so-called reporters for his "murder" in the US media [2], given the StratFor leaks that have shown the US has had a secret grand jury empanelled for at least a year to concoct charges against Assange, and given the US practice of torturing and murdering her enemies via "extraordinary rendition," I believe he did the only thing he could.

    [1] Assange was convicted of hacking Nortel when he was about twenty, a crime so serious that he received a good behaviour bond and a AU$2100 fine, a fine that in US currency equalled about US$1575 at the time. Adjusting for changes in US purchasing power, this fine is the equivalent of about US$460 today. In 1993, Assange also helped the police to capture child pornographers.

    [2] Inciting people to murder is itself a crime, and yet none of the people listed at ( ) has been charged, let alone prosecuted. It seems like inciting murder or actual murder (as in “Collateral Murder”) is fine, so long as the crime is carried out by a US citizen.