Berlinale: Zero Days

Zero Days
Directed by Alex Gibney

by Joanna Orland

You may have read an article or heard murmurings about Stuxnet – a computer virus allegedly created and implemented by America and Israel to target Iran’s nuclear facilities with the aim of destroying them.  Alex Gibney’s latest documentary Zero Days primarily focuses on the Stuxnet virus, but what it unravels is a much more complex and sinister new method of modern warfare – cyber warfare.

The idea of cyber warfare is not a new concept and has been around since the invention of cyber technology.  What is modern about this new concept is the way the world is using it, without guidelines or restrictions.  What Gibney implies in his documentary is that with Stuxnet, America set the precedent for cyber warfare – America not only put the code into the enemies’ hands, but they paved the way morally for it to be used.

War began with armies and navies.  Once technology allowed, the air force became an integrated element in war.  Then there were nuclear weapons.  Now there is cyber warfare.  Gibney strongly compares the new cyber warfare methods to the onset of nuclear advancement – when nuclear weapons were introduced into war, there were no treaties or agreements about how to manage this, hence the years of cold war tensions.  As one government official featured in the film pointed out, it may have taken twenty or thirty years of hard work to reach these international agreements, but they were reached.  The hope is that a similar treaty can be agreed upon with the implementation of cyber warfare.  The most prominent blocker to reaching this agreement is the lack of willingness for countries to discuss it – notably America as they continue to deny their involvement in Stuxnet.

Zero Days examines America’s involvement in Stuxnet, whose original code name was Olympic Games or “OG”, through interviews with a diverse array of government officials both American and Israeli, journalist David Sanger who has done extensive research into the subject matter, and an actress who represents the testimony of various government officials that have wanted to come forward yet keep their anonymity.

As with Gibney’s previous cycling documentary The Armstrong Lie, the director takes a subject matter potentially foreign to an audience and explains it clearly and thoroughly to help gain insight into and an understanding of the bigger picture.  He is a skilled documentary filmmaker and while Zero Days does come across as dry and dark, it is certainly informative and interesting.  And terrifying.  Very very terrifying.


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