Laura Poitras started filming Julian Assange six years ago when the Wikileaks founder was still operating out of a supporter's home in Norfolk, England under house arrest, while he waited to be questioned by Swedish authorities about allegations of rape, molestation and coercion made against him by two women in Sweden.
Her new film, titled Risk, out Friday in New York, follows Assange as he prepares to barricade himself inside the Ecuadorian Embassy to avoid extradition. She revisits him there periodically over the next five years, where, among other private moments, Poitras captures a bizarre visit from Lady Gaga who, in the context of the film, materializes inside the embassy apropos of seemingly nothing.
"I think it's really funny and surreal and the sort of disconnect is great. And I also think it’s revealing about him," Poitras tells Rolling Stone of the scene. "When she is asking who is after him, you feel like this list could keep going on and on and on. And, the truth is, is that all of those organizations, agencies, countries do have investigations into Wikileaks and Julian."
The visit took place in 2012, while Gaga was promoting her Fame perfume across the street at Harrods. It may have been inspired by a tweeted invitation from the rapper M.I.A., who wrote, "if ur at harrods today, come visit Assange at the Ecuador embassy across the st. im there. ill bring TEA and CAKE." (If M.I.A. was present for the meeting, she's not captured on film.)
Adding to the clip's awkwardness is the fact that Gaga would go on to become an outspoken advocate for victims of sexual assault and a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, whose candidacy Assange and Wikileaks relentlessly attacked on Twitter throughout the campaign and ultimately helped torpedo via Wikileaks' strategically timed publication of both the DNC and Podesta emails. A representative for Lady Gaga did not respond to a request for comment.
Before and since, a parade of other celebrities have made the pilgrimage to the Ecuadorian Embassy to visit Assange; most recently his rumored paramour Pamela Anderson. Three of the four Swedish allegations are now "statute barred," they've expired, and the fourth is set to expire in 2020.