What does politics have to do with sustainability? Everything. Our government is what regulates what’s right and wrong. It decides if and how we have to recycle. It determines how much we have to pay for our medical care. It stipulates who we are allowed to marry. Nevertheless politics to most of us is something that is out of our control and that can’t be influenced. We couldn’t be more wrong. We have freedom of speech. We could make a difference. But unfortunately we live in comfort and rarely make use of it. Most of us EU citizens live under ideal circumstances.
- We have a democracy.
- We have less corrupt politicians and a legislation that works fairly well compared to other countries.
- We can access higher education without financial burden.
- We have a pretty solid social security net that can catch us in case of need.
- We have a good health system that everybody can afford.
- We can travel the world.
In November a Polit Film Festival took place in Innsbruck. During the course of 5 days 9 movies about politics from below, about how we as citizens can have an impact on politics, were shown.
This week of political documentaries was a much needed eye opener. After spending time hidden behind screens and books reading about theories, for a change, it was brought closer. Not that I was not aware of most of the topics covered, but to watch real people struggling with real problems has a very different impact.
Following are very subjective revisions of a few of the many documentaries I saw last week.
The movie is about the occupation of the square “Maidan” in Ukraine’s capital Kiew – about the peaceful protesting in favor of a european integration and the violent clashes with the police it culmilated into. The protests went on for months, during Urkaine’s very cold winter.
What made this movie so special was that it’s a movie without interviews, no narration, no music, no commentary – just long shots documenting the crowds. The audience can choose what to focus on and how to interpret the scenery. It’s refreshing.
For me it captured what demonstrations really are like. You do not feel heroic, there is no quick satisfaction. It is tiring, exhausting, cold and often boring. You need a long breath. And when police is involved it’s confusing. You don’t know what is happening and feel like a rabbit being chased and you don’t know why. I was pretty lucky so far and never have witnessed police cruelty. But the movie captures the confusion and emotions involved very well. One comment from somebody on the stage captures the situation best: “stay calm, stay together, don’t let your emotions guide you”.
See the Trailer here.
Anarchism. As soon as the word was used you could see different reactions. Some immediately switched to a defensive body language, some had their eyes lightened up. Few – me included – knew what Anarchism exactly stands for, besides from it being against the current governmental model and against capitalism. I met an anarchist recently and he was not what I pictured an anarchist to be – at all. Since then the word almost haunted me and I found out some of my favorite bands are Anarchists. So needless to say, I was pretty curious about this documentary. And very early on into the movie I had to smile when the narrator stated with a happy voice that some anarchists today can even be considered to be socially acceptable.
But the movie wasn’t about the theories behind Anarchism. It followed different anarchistic movements throughout Europe:
- an occupied parking lot in a suburb in Greece that is struggling after the financial crisis and tries to function autonomously,
- the International Anarchist Convention in Switzerland,
- a german activist that ties herself to train tracks to stop a castor transport and is traveling all year long to protest or help other likeminded,
- an agricultural cooperative from Germany,
- the anti-capitalist activist Enric Duran who is being persecuted and lives in the underground
- and the spanish group Coopearative Integral Catalana, “a transitional initiative for social transformation from below, through self-management, self-organization and networking”, as they describe themselves on their homepage.
The movie was rather value-free. It followed different protagonists with radical ideas and their ways of protesting. Some were more approachable than others. Some just seemed to be against something without promoting a solution or an alternative. Provoking authorities and the police seemed to be an outlet for aggression rather than a means to stand up for something and breaking the law appeared to be a very prominent form of protest. Others had appealing, seemingly utopian concepts. One group successfully created a functioning society of likeminded people, but were struggling to turn their ideals into a reality in the middle of a state that represents everything they stand against.
Can a small group of extremist and those trying to work outside of society have an inspirational effect on others? Some of the examples shown as for example the “Cooperative Integra Catalana” have a model that cooperates with other european groups. They all elect local and national representatives. These are in constant contact to the groups they represent. This two sided stream of communication makes the decisions more democratic than the system we currently have in place.
Most of the ideas behind Anarchism sound appealing; such as the fair social concept, the real democratic influence and the idea of a different economic model away from our current capitalistic approach where expansion, constant outsourcing, consumption and growth is the only goal.
The movie raised more questions than it answered. But I guess I will stumble across this topic at a later time.
But the movie is very recommendable so please watch it and support them: Projekt A
Io sto con la sposa
“I am with the bride” is a documentary about former Syrians and sympathizes that are EU citizens which help several Syrian refugees to travel from Milano in Italy to Malmö in Sweden in hope of getting the right of asylum in a country that offers better treatment.
One of the most touching quotes from the movie that made me tweak in my seat was: “We still have the keys to the houses they took from us”. It represents everything they left behind – their homes, their friends, their family, their life. All of those interviewed want to go back.
For us europeans it is very normal to travel around the world and to cross borders. We sometimes forget how different this experience can be for others.
See the trailer here