DOXA 2013: Occupy The Movie puts a movement in context

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      Canadian filmmaker Corey Ogilvie "committed a little sociology" during his time as a student at UBC. Now he’s made the film that opens this year's DOXA Documentary Film Festival, on Friday (May 3): Occupy The Movie.

      Because of the vast nature of the topic, Ogilvie keeps his gaze focused, chronicling the first two and a half months of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, from the actions that led to the initial occupation and catalyzing events like mass arrests during a march on the Brooklyn Bridge, to the pepper spraying of a protester by an NYPD officer and the camp eviction ordered by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

      Despite the narrow time-frame covered, Ogilvie manages to capture both the big issues—the current political malaise, the uncertainty of future generations, the concept of money as speech—and the small, such as interpersonal conflicts between occupiers, the emotional toll the action took on activists and their families, and the inherent disagreements about the diversity of tactics.

      The film uses every kind of footage available—one-on-one interviews with notable thinkers like Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Chris Hedges, and Adbusters' Kalle Lasn, as well as on-the-ground organizers and activists, clips from various network news organizations, camera phone captures, and YouTube videos—and is vastly indebted to social media and the army of citizen journalists who were dedicated to covering something that the mainstream media was slow to follow.

      The film’s greatest strength is its contextualization of events. There is no straight-forward narrative of the subject. Instead, the film is presented in chapters, with even-numbers tending to focus on the occupation itself, and odd-numbers laying out the context for events.

      Some of these include “Kill the Bull”, which details the 2008 fiscal meltdown, the ensuing bank bailouts, and "too big to fail" mythos; “Death by Complexity”, which is an attempt to explain the labyrinthine derivatives market and its effects on, well, everything; and “Occupy 2.0”, which critically examines the strengths and weaknesses of the initial occupation, and the future for this kind of movement.

      The least objective segment is "Diversity of Tactics", which examines the divisions between peaceful, non-violent participants and those using black bloc tactics to further their agenda. The film gives a lot of time to journalist Chris Hedges, who denounces the property violence and direct challenge to cops committed by the bloc.

      But no attempt is made to place these tactics in history or even within the Occupy movement itself—in fact, there is no acknowledgement in the film that the "black bloc" simply refers to a set of techniques, not a formal group of shadowy anarchists. While there is some discussion of the nature of reforming current systems versus the revolutionary nature of historical change—hey America, you're built on violent revolution!—it's fairly rote stuff.

      Equally, there's also no pat voiceover explaining to the audience how they should think or feel about what's being presented on screen, leaving viewers to form their own conclusions about the material presented.

      While it’s hardly the first documentary on the subject, nor is it likely to be the definitive one, Occupy The Movie is definitely one of the most neutral. Most importantly, it gives a voice to numerous individuals who directly participated in events.

      As one OWS organizer tells the camera in an emotional moment, "It sucks—but it's the best thing I've ever done."

      Watch the trailer for Occupy The Movie.

      Occupy The Movie screens as part of the DOXA Documentary Film Festival on Friday (May 3) at the Vancouver Playhouse (600 Hamilton Street) at 7 p.m. The film also screens on May 7 at the Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour Street) at 12:30 p.m. and May 11 at the Cinematheque (1131 Howe Street) at 9:15 p.m. The May 3 and 7 showing will be followed by a Q & A session with director Corey Ogilvie.



      Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

      May 1, 2013 at 9:42pm

      Thank you so much for addressing this issue so coherently. It would be great if someone made a film some day that gave equal time to DOT advocates on the "dogmatic nonviolence" the foundation-run progressive movement foists on the left. What I find especially disturbing is the amount of funding the CIA (via left gatekeeping foundations) invests in nonviolence training. In fact a close examination of the CIA and Pentagon links of nonviolent guru Gene Sharp is downright freaky.

      I explore the ugly side of nonviolence and left gatekeeping foundations in my free ebook 21st Century Revolution. I also look at working class attitudes towards nonviolence and gun control, emphasizing the left ignores these areas at their parallel.

      My book is a free download at