Director: Stuart Townsend
Battle in Seattle portrays the events of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, WA. where thousands marched against the WTO and capitalist globalization. Before the film was even completed, many protesters, especially the Anarchists, were concerned that the film was going to portray the protesters as violent kids bent on destroying things. The director met with many of the original organizers in an attempt to end up with a more accurate film. The end result is quite mixed at best in my judgment.
While the film itself focuses too heavily on the main characters story and not enough exactly on why it is that there even were protests, it does tackle important issues: for example the fact that the police are indeed the ones who started the troubles that week. Aside from this and showing that labor was not alienated from the more “radical” protesters, the film really doesn’t offer much in terms of analysis of protest tactics or the overall strategy of anti/alter-globalizationists. For example, the issue of violence during protests was only briefly addressed when a short scene that depicts an anarchist throwing something through a window when one of the main characters scolds them for the use of violence: the anarchist responds: that’s not violence!
While the issues of whether property damage can be violence or even terrorism is an important one that the film seems it is willing to tackle: it hardly addresses it. It does, however, paint the main organizers in the film as ready to be arrested while they engage in direct actions like blocking major roads and convention sites which can certainly also be an important point of discussion for the left. But overall, it seems to continue to play into certain stereotypes of leftists (at least anarchists) that are quite shallow. There’s certainly a lot of debate to be had on whether the anarchist “black bloc” strategy is a valid one or not, but this film doesn’t seem to take that debate on.
The film ends with an inspiring positive montage of people resisting the WTO (and G20 I believe) all over the world since Seattle in 1999 which is perhaps a good way to inspire a newer generation of activists. The film is worth the time to watch but has significant shortcomings for trying to tackle an important event in recent history for leftists .
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