Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Movie Review: 99% Occupy Wall Street

My life feels just a bit brighter and richer because I went in and saw this new film, "99% Occupy Wall Street." It's a colorful, well-made, moving piece of documentary film-making. It's not perfect, but it manages to help make sense of the importance and the persistent promise of Occupy.

The film does a good job of telling and building the story: Occupy's birth at Zucoti Park, thanks to Adbusters and Anonymous, its rapid spread planet wide thanks to the masses, and the ratcheting up of a brutal, insensitive police response thanks to the system. Meanwhile, the crimes of Wall Street go unprosecuted. The junk mortgages, the scams, the yawning class divide. The corporate media don't quite get any of the story.

"99%" delivers compelling doses of good information using social critic expert like Matt Taibi and Naomi Wolfe. Juxtaposed of course with real life stories of a struggling African-american mother getting foreclosed in North Minneapolis, the evolution of NY Occupy activist Hero Vincent, and plenty of up-close and personal footage of mass arrests. Did you know that the Week 2 mass arrest of over 740 people corralled into Brooklyn Bridge was one of the biggest mass arrests in history? That's a good sign. We need more good signs.

One interesting thing to note is the film was billed to have been made "collaboratively" among "100 different film-makers" but that process is never explained. At the end, we learn there were four main directors. I think that that's OK, personally. But how was this film new? Part of the packaging of the film was that it was a new mode of collaborative creation.

And because of that, I was a little worried.  I wasn't sure how the film could cover the polyphonous sprawling critique of society and capitalism that Occupy sought to articulate, without leaders, programs, or doctrine. Like Occupy, the film tends to present the problems of class inequality, economic imbalance as a problem that naturally leans toward its own resolution: we need some sort of major deep economic reform, and no one is quite sure how.

No one, that is, except Naomi Wolf. Author of The End of America, The Beauty Myth, etc. she comes off as a dissenter among dissenters. She breaks with the anarchistic flat-hierarchy philosophy of the "general assembly" and the "leaderless/leaderful" model. She claims that all effective social movements had hierarchies, and that a consensus-based, flat-hierarchy model is a recipe for dissolution. She isn't challenged by any other voices on this point in the film, so it seems that the film-makers are backing her view. Perhaps this is a kind of favor to the movement: doing a kind of autopsy on why Occupy rose quickly, but fell or faded. I mean, hell, I should stop saying "this thing outside myself Occupy" the way I think it, and make it personal. I was there right after the Brooklyn Bridge mass arrests, my friend Yana was arrested there among the historic 742. Occupy was a magical feeling of family. I felt a little bit of it tonight in the movie theatre, sitting down and sharing some of my vegan pizza with the strangers who were sitting next to me. Because they cared about Occupy too, we were automatically family. I don't know why it all went away. Maybe it didn't. Maybe it's still in our hearts, and will come back out, in a better, more fluid, more focussed way. It's OK to reflect on what we did wrong, and what went very right. It's OK to want to get better. This film fired me up to look back on the last two years, and then look forward to the next forty.

Trailer and info here.

Film Review by Sander Hicks.
Come see Sander sing with working-class heroes White Collar Crime, this Thursday, 9/12, at Pyramid Club. NYC. With Nomadic Collective and Kaleidoscope Community Yoga. Info.

No comments:

Post a Comment