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 Boys, Romulus 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.