A singing prayer bowl opens Velcrow Ripper’s Occupy Love, launching a film envisioned as part documentary, part romance. In Ripper’s acclaimed visual poetry, the inaugural chime becomes the rhythm to a global chorus of images, both beautiful and brutal: the smouldering ruins of Hiroshima and the World Trade Center, a rumbling volcano, flowers thriving in a desert, a child cracking open a rose hip and remarking that inside is “a temple of seeds”. The eye of a hurricane.
The award-winning director of Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action peers into that storm’s eye in his latest offering, which premiered this week at VIFF (and screens on October 6 and 10). Ripper asks some of the world’s best-known activists an unusual question: “How could the crisis we’re facing become a love story?”
Some of them laugh. Some love it. But as he puts his love hypothesis before Naomi Klein, bell hooks, Clayton Thomas-Müller, Rebecca Solnit, Judy Rebick, and Bill McKibben, Ripper hopes to inspire social change to confront climate catastrophe and rampant oppression.
“I was already taking the pulse of this almost invisible movement,” Ripper tells the Straight in an East Vancouver café. “So when the Arab Spring turned into the European Summer—then turned into Occupy—we were already following the story.”
Shooting Occupy Love took him to almost a dozen countries, from Spain’s anti-austerity occupations to the heady days of Tahrir Square in Cairo. But is “love story” too naive a frame for our collapsing economies and ecosystems? Can humanity unite behind Ripper’s “100 percent” vision, or is that dream for the progressive privileged?
“This isn’t a flaky ideal or some kind of a dream,” he insists. “This is a necessary, very practical step forward for humanity.…This is what’s needed if we’re going to turn things—these huge crises facing the planet—around. Because there’s no more ‘someone else’s backyard.’ ”