The film offers a balanced portrait of the characters that populated this unfolding drama at the Art Gallery last October, from the mainstream journalists eager for grit, to the posturing of politicians (particularly Susan Anton), and the broad swath of occupiers themselves, who ranged from anti-globalization activists to people without homes drawn to safety in numbers.
My only critique: women are not featured prominently enough, given there were many articulate, powerful women that held many important roles in the community. That aside, the filmmakers do an admiral job offering the range of emotion and challenges that gripped the encampment.
I did not camp on the site. I spent a fair amount of days wandering the grounds, caught between the excitement of defiance that such an expression could take hold in our own city, and the sadness that comes from knowing it cannot last. The collision between the status quo and those willing to see beyond the tents lagged as time went on, and the mainstream media took hold of the narrative. My role became infused with the mission to capture as much as possible, like the necessity of scribbling notes in a journal while in heightened states of clarity and vision.
Because it is easy to forget. We always forget.
In a recent interview, Occupier Sean O’Flynn-Magee (who is also featured prominently in the film) says:
“The isolation that people feel in post-industrialized Western society – that’s really paralyzing,” he said. “When you feel alone you don’t do stuff, you don’t try to change things, you don’t believe that things can be changed. And so the big flag that Occupy raised and (for) the people who were able to run to it and meet their allies it was a very heartening and empowering experience.”
The truth is apparent in watching The Occupation. As the participants struggle with the police, and each other, let alone the issues of environmental degradation, income inequality, and the erosion of democracy, you can feel the desire to hold on to a felt experience so mysterious, and so beautiful, it defies explanation.
Here’s what I think it is: the memory of the village.
We remembered, for a flicker, the feeling of actually having to depend on each other. Of actually caring for each other, and the willingness to work for each other. To build our homes, to share in our sadness, to stand together in adversity.
Many who I thought would understand this facet of the occupation shied away, or criticized the movement for everything it was doing “wrong.” They need spokespeople. They need to kick out the drug addicts. They need to articulate their demands. They spoke as if telling “them” what do do. Rather than simply going down there and opting to do it.
Michael Stone (who also spoke eloquently at the encampment) asked me one day to ponder a koan: “what stops you?” As I think about my friends and other progressives who waited on the fringes of the movement, I wonder what stopped them and not the Occupiers. In Rafferty & Van Deventer’s film I saw the answer.
The Occupiers were willing to have their hearts broken.
Today is also Occupy Vancouver’s 1 year anniversary. O’Flynn-Magee said he didn’t know if he would attend the gathering on the Art Gallery grounds, revealing “it would be an emotional decision to return to the site.”
“…loneliness is not the reason to start a village. Loneliness increases the longer you’re together. The reason you get married is not the reason you stay married. Being together does not extinguish the longing nor does it feed the desire to have your loneliness end. Your willingness to see another day and your willingness to live as though you may never see it, knowing that you, or the marriage, or the village may not live to see another day is the labour. The labour of village making doesn’t extinguish your longing. It’s the throne for your longing to sit upon. And that’s what I call grief…”
Watching The Occupation invokes a sadness not only because we know how it will end – but because we are just becoming aware of the scope of the journey.
And it can be no other way.