Sunday, December 15, 2013

99%: the Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Movie

(Photo from Time)

Audrey Ewell was watching a live stream from a marcher on the Brooklyn Bridge; the picture went black. At that  moment she realized the Occupy Wall Street movement needed a film maker (or makers). The incident on the bridge was not covered in the local news. The police barricaded the bridge, setting a trap for the marchers who were not breaking any law. 735 arrests were made--the largest mass arrest of peaceful citizens in American history.

Ewell and her partner, Aaron Ailes saw the movement was too big for a typical documentary, plus it was already well organized. They advertised for film makers from all of the US, thus the "collaborative" in the title. Although this method made a somewhat choppy film it brought in individuals and stories that illustrate how broadly the country as been divided between the 1% affluent (no, VERY, VERY rich) and the 99% how are struggling to pay their bills, keep their homes, pay off student loans. (As much a banking scam as the subprime mortgage madness that lead to the most recent financial collapse. The students will never be able to pay all those loans. Banking is headed for another collapse.)

Many scenes show us the peaceful and intelligent organization of the movement but that is less memorable than the gratuitous police brutality. I will never forget a scene of somea 25 arrested people sitting on the sidewalk, hands bound, heads down, as a cop walks along with a big can of pepper spray, spraying the entirely helpless arrestees like you might spray Raid on a line of ants marching into you kitchen.  He shook up the can and walked along the line spraying not once but three times.

Various talking heads give us perspective about the disregard of the First Amendment.  But the individuals whose stories are told is always the most moving: the vet who feels this is THE fight and who mourns that more soldiers have come home and committed suicide (18 every week) than have died in the Middle East, Monique in Minneapolis who fights when the bank tries to repossess her house (and wins), the retired police captain appalled by police action who puts on his decorated uniform and joins the protesters.

Our documentary class was privileged. The film has been purchased by a major distributor and can only be shown in theatres under their aegis but it can be shown  in educational settings. Aaron's mother is a co-coordinator of our documentary class, so nd Aaron and Audrey were there to talk with us and answer questions.  We always have very lively discussions with both positive and negative reactions. One thoughtful woman who always seeks balance and fairness said she wished the 1% had had a chance to speak for themselves.  Audrey answered, very forcefully, that the movie is for the 99% to have their say.  Furthermore the 1% have hours and hours and hours of national TV, and the major newspapers speaking for them.  Hurray, Audrey!  And thanks to Aaron and Audrey for producing this film.  For a review of the film click here.


Lynn Guardino said...

From a 99 Percenter......I also felt sickened at the pepper spray scene. How horrific a sight. I have had one too many encounters with the 1% and there were times when I could have used that spray. Good review June!

June Calender said...

Thanks, Lynn. A lot of talking points in that film that I'm already sharing with others.


Another great film -- I would have loved to watch this June -- barbara