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Hot Docs 2013: Occupy - The Movie

Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York’s Zuccotti Park / Courtesy Hot Docs

The Occupy protest movement that swept much of the Western world in 2011 and 2012 was distinct in that the mission stemmed from many individual roots. The movement’s detractors claimed that protesters, made up of both radicals and “ordinary” citizens, had no clear-cut motives or ends they wanted to meet. Corey Ogilvie’s Occupy: The Movie, shot while the dissent on Wall Street in New York City was taking place, uses a mixed-media approach to understand the movement as a kind of cultural and political phenomenon. Though its own members reflect that the weakest link of the movement was and still is the potential to lose steam without achieving a common goal, the fact that thousands of people with contrasting political ideologies banded together to voice concerns over the future direction of Western society is a remarkable feat.

The movement was bonded by general discontent. Ogilvie’s documentary illustrates and explicates its key concerns, influences and strategies by melding a literary framework (the film is broken into chapters) with a mixture of documentary modes to create a cohesive and informative narrative. Schematics and infographics rub up against footage shot by protesters and an assortment of individual interviews to both inform those who didn’t follow the events, and clarify the details that might have been lost in selective media coverage.

Ogilvie explains that his film is in many ways connected to The Corporation (dirs. Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, 2003): “Occupy uses a lot of the same techniques as The Corporation. It has a similar narrative structure, and to get [director Achbar’s positive] appraisal told me that I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t sure before that if the movie was absolute shit!” Building upon that film’s fiery critique of bigwig organisations and updating it for the post-bailout generation, Occupy: The Movie deserves attention for its ability to synthesize a maelstrom of events, ideas and interviews.

“My involvement in Occupy began once I saw the girls corralled during a protest in the fall of 2011, getting pepper-sprayed by the police. I wanted to ask, Who are these people and what are they doing?” The video Ogilvie refers to, a rapidly spread YouTube clip that was passed around forums and social media, not only makes an appearance in his doc but proves instructive in the massive amount of research the filmmaker took on.

Using information cultivated from social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and expanded upon by quantitative data drawn from primary and secondary sources, Ogilvie has managed to strike a balance between an outline and a social study. In one instance a marketing analyst is asked to explain complex derivatives in an effort to highlight the extent to which the banks contribute to the economy. It is a monster of an explanation, but his jargon is broken down into manageable nuggets of information through digital processing. Infographics appear and lead the viewer through the basics, while cheeky, Coles Notes–styled bullet points appear to debunk his explanation. The sequence illustrates Occupy’s accessibility, something necessary for social change. Occupy: The Movie is a kind of balancing act, and time will tell if its large scope elicits the same impassioned responses Occupy: The Movement did.

Click here for POV’s full list of Hot Docs previews.

Screenings:
Mon, Apr 29 8:45 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Tue, Apr 30 2:00 PM
Hart House Theatre

Nicholas Gergesha is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute. In addition to writing for magazines like POV, he also performs visual research and works with the City of Toronto.

View all articles by Nicholas Gergesha »