Some of the finest moments in the history of documentary filmmaking occur when the footage itself, without fancy editing or sound tricks, supports the film’s thesis. For example, in We Interrupt This Empire, a pro-war demonstrator attempts to explain his beliefs, and ends up mired in an ignorant, wandering indictment of the entire Middle East. Accordingly, the film strives to show the many faces of America’s imperial empire, and the tremendous injustice the antiwar movement has been done by the mainstream media.
The film seems to be, if not an effortless endeavor, then at least one that developed quite naturally from the demonstrations leading up to and occurring on March 20, 2003. “It was an organic sort of happening,” explains Lisa Sousa, one of roughly a dozen people who worked on the project under the umbrella of the Video Activist Network. “It was this historic protest happening, and we wanted to try to get as many people with video cameras out there. So videographers would call us and say, ‘What’s happening, where should we go?’ We were definitely in the mix of the protest. And this project came about because it just seemed to make sense.”
We Interrupt … covers a huge amount of ground, from corporate war profiteering to post-9/11 ethnic profiling, from the sugarcoating of the war on TV to police brutality (and, at times, police impotence). But the film’s power ultimately comes from the footage, shot by approximately twenty contributors, of the massive shutdown of San Francisco. “A friend of mine just got back from England,” Sousa says, “and he showed it to hundreds of people over there, and they were really excited to see that people were actively resisting the war here. Because, sometimes, that’s hard to communicate across countries. It’s nice for them to see that there’s resistance happening in the US, because I think there’s this perception, especially in Europe, that we’re not doing as much as other places.”
We Interrupt This Empire screens this Saturday at AK Press (674-A 23rd St., Oakland) at 7 p.m., and again on Tuesday at the Parkway (1934 Park Blvd., Oakland) at 9:15 p.m. VideoActivism.org