The film Ithaka, the title taken from a poem by C.P Cavafy, chronicles the slow-motion torture and execution of the Australian journalist Julian Assange, currently awaiting extradition to the United States in a high security prison in London. It charts his journey from publisher of the most important revelations of our generation of fraud, war crimes, lies and corruption by the powerful to his refuge for seven years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London from 2012 to 2019, his seizure and arrest by British police, who enter the embassy to detain him, and harsh imprisonment in Belmarsh prison where he currently fights a U.S. extradition request. It unflinchingly portrays the terrible emotional cost to him and his family, including his father John, his wife Stella and their two young children. The film, directed by Ben Lawrence and produced by Assange’s brother Gabriel Shipton, pits Assange, his family and his supporters against the opaque, ruthless and monolithic power of nation states, including Sweden, Great Britain and the United States, and more importantly the intelligence services that have long sought to silence and crush Julian in retribution. Assange is largely absent from this film, isolated in the high security prison and only able to communicate through periodic phone calls, some of which are filmed. In Cavafy’s poem, the wanderer Odysseus departs Troy for the long and perilous journey back to Ithaka. Cavafy warns us in the poem not to allow the evil forces that conspire against us to turn us too into monsters, to “Keep Ithaka always in your mind.”
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Joining me to discuss Ithaka is Gabriel Shipton.