International Symposium - Fiction and reality: beyond Big Brother

Belém Cultural Centre - November 14th and 15th

Estoril Congress Center - November 16th.

After the international symposia on “Copyrights in the internet era” and “Art vs. culture and cultural industries” in previous editions of the festival, this year, in collaboration with the association La Quadrature du Net, the Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival organizes, on the 14th, 15th and 16th of November, at Belém Cultural Centre and Estoril Congress Center an international symposium on surveillance, one of the major issues of our time, in which several world-renowned activists, creators and thinkers will be participating.

We are counting on the participation of Julian Assange, of some of the people who have been working with Edward Snowden, of judge Baltasar Garzón, of Noam Chomsky, of Prisa Group President Juan Luis Cebrián, who will be delivering the closing statement, of Software Freedom Law Center professor and founder Eben Moglen, of writer and journalist Roberto Saviano, and of La Quadrature du Net activists Philippe Aigrin and Jérémie Zimmerman. Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva has also expressed his wish to participate, and we do hope it will be possible for him to officially open the symposium, although we are still awaiting his confirmation. We also look forward to the participation of many others (activists, journalists, filmmakers, writers, artists), who will soon be announced.


"We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind.…The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent reality." J.G. Ballard

Fiction and reality. Here is the twosome that Edward Snowden has perhaps the most sustainably shaken. Some alerts had already been raised with the revelation of the Echelon system at the end of the last century; the ever-growing number of terrorism laws, the progressively more oligopolistic Internet ecosystem during the 2000s… But, by revealing - that is materialising - the surveillance mechanisms that control every aspect of our lives, en masse and with no criteria, Edward Snowden has turned the anxiety of the future into a terror of the present. 

Thus fiction and reality, but also, perhaps especially, fiction and (im)materiality. Because if no one could have imagined, nor anticipated the art and the scope of the surveillance we are submitted to, it is due to that immateriality of surveillance that we should question. How can Cinema or Literature capture what from now on goes without a body: that circulation of bits that cannot be controlled? How to narrate those lives that each day stray away from the physical world we know. What links can we find between the activists’ technical resistance to rebuild our autonomy and sovereignty and the new narratives taking control over the digital universe? Have we returned to the starting point, when Ivan Illich and a few critical thinkers described computers as a vehicle for a society of surveillance and control, and when Michel Foucault described the deeply securitarian nature of modern States? Is it necessary to repress the enthusiasm with which individuals take control of the digital world to communicate, to express or invent themselves in a new space? 

Though our relationship with the world seemed defined, the invisible and the monstrous suddenly appeared to remind us of the siege that the powers put us under. How do we respond to that? Do we need to use figuration to denunciate more efficiently – exposing those interdependent bodies mutated into cyborgs – rather than the suggestion of this impalpable influence that surrounds us, dominates us and threatens us with all its weight?

In the end, it’s the relationship between art and resistance that this case questions. Because if there’s any lesson to take from the continuous discoveries about the massive surveillance we’re under, it’s that the simple fact of showing is a resistance act per se. Showing those who want to see everything on the condition of not being seen themselves. Showing, as well, how we can build our own narratives, conceiving a different digital universe, independently or in response to their vigilance. 

At the time of faceless powers, how to structure this resistance? On whom will we henceforth rest to defend our freedoms in the future, besides whistleblowers? Are artists, eternal image revealers, Shouldn’t they have their saying on this endless struggle? Isn’t creation itself threatened by this flood of bits, algorithms and automatic restriction devices, which obsession is to erase unpredictability, risk and anomaly? Those are the questions we will seek to answer  by gathering some of the advocates of the virtual struggle (Julian Assange, Jérémie Zimmermann, Jennifer Robinson…) and some of the creators and thinkers invited to the festival. Because, in the end, though the fight of the invisibles has begun, what is better than a festival made of images and image creators to open the debate?


Friday 14th - Centro Cultural de Belém

3 PM: Symposium Opening – Philippe Aigrain and Juan Branco.

Screening of the interview with Noam Chomsky. 

4h30 PM: Discussion between Edgar Morin (philosopher and sociologist) and José Pacheco Pereira (essayist) – to be confirmed -, interleaved with readings by Philippe Aigrain, Dorota Maslowska and Céline Curiol. Moderator Juan Branco.

Saturday 15th - Centro Cultural de Belém

10 AM: Table 1 “The shock of mass surveillance”.

With Baltasar Garzón (judge, Julian Assange’s attorney), Jérémie Zimmermann (founder of Quadrature du net), Nan Goldin (photographer) and Céline Curiol (author).Moderator: Philippe Aigrain.

3 PM: Keynote speaker: Eben Moglen (Professor at Columbia University): "Surveillance and Hypocrisy: Why Spying and Film-making are Inseparable"

followed by Table 2 “Overcoming the shock : understanding mass surveillance”. 

With Eben Moglen (Professor at Columbia University), Jennifer Robinson (Julian Assange’s attorney), Rui Tavares (historian, former MEP) and Eric Sadin (author). Moderator Juan Branco.

8 PM: Citizenfour’s projection and Q&A with the presence of Laura Poitras (director, responsible for Edward Snowden’s revelations).

Sunday 16th - Centro de Congressos do Estoril

10 AM: Table 3 “Reacting against mass surveillance: make room for society”.

With Jacob Appelbaum (hacker, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden’s co-collaborator), Jérémie Zimmermann (LQDN) and  Julian Assange (founder of WikiLeaks). Moderator Juan Branco.

12 AM: Conclusions of the Symposium and final statements by Juan Luis Cébrian.

Along with the Symposium, LEFFEST has a cinema cycle which works as a starting point for the issues under debate. Its programme can be consulted here.

About the speakers:

  1. Edgar Morin
  2. Baltazar Garzón
  3. Eben Moglen
  4. Jennifer Robinson
  5. Jérémie Zimmerman
  6. Juan Luis Cebrián
  7. Rui Tavares
  8. Noam Chomsky
  9. Céline Curiol
  10. Éric Sadin
  11. Laura Poitras
  12. Jacob Appelbaum
  13. Nan Goldin

Julian Assange will be speaking to the public by means of a live streaming

La Quadrature du Net
La Quadrature du Net is a non-profit association, composed of citizens of several countries, that defends the rights and freedoms of citizens on the Internet, and has been working on the adaptation of the French and European legislation to the founding principles of the Internet, especially the free circulation of knowledge. La Quadrature du Net has thus been engaged in major debates on freedom of speech, copyright, telecommunication regulation and online privacy.
Beside this work, the association has also been helping in the struggle for a better understanding of legislative procedures by citizens. Through the dissemination of specific and pertinent information of various tools, La Quadrature du Net seeks to encourage the participation of citizens in the public debate on rights and freedom in the digital era.

Day: 14 at 15h00
CCB Centro Cultural de Belém - Lisboa
Day: 14 at 16h30
CCB Centro Cultural de Belém - Lisboa
Day: 15 at 10h00
CCB Centro Cultural de Belém - Lisboa
Day: 15 at 15h00
CCB Centro Cultural de Belém - Lisboa
Day: 16 at 10h00
Centro de Congressos do Estoril - Estoril
Day: 16 at 12h00
Centro de Congressos do Estoril - Estoril