Daniel Andreas Sager’s film showcases journalism at its most vital. The main subjects are Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, star journalists who broke the Panama Papers story in 2016. We first meet them as they talk with Edward Snowden, who offers both praise for their work and a dire warning about the enemies of freedom. Those enemies are the quarry in what follows: an investigation into the murder of a colleague, an attempt to unveil an arms dealer, and an exposure of corruption in Viennese politics.
Sager’s focus is on process: he portrays the dogged research, interplay with whistleblowers, painstaking revisions, crafting of copy, and momentous editorial decisions that go into producing exposés. The attention to detail is rigorous, but never dry; the crisp, vivid cinematography and measured pacing are a perfect complement to the theme of mystery developing into clear, hard fact. In its modest way, Behind the Headlines is a tribute to knowledge itself; as such, it’s especially valuable in a time when so many people are working to obscure that very Thing.