My film-by-film look at the documentaries of next month’s 2013 Sundance Film Festival begins with the US Documentary Competition. Going alphabetically through the contenders, first up: 99% – THE OCCUPY WALL STREET COLLABORATIVE FILM, a history, overview, and analysis of the Occupy movement from its inception, through eviction, and to today, by Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read, and Nina Krstic.
Sundance Program Description:
In 2011, seemingly overnight, Occupy captured the imagination of our nation—and the world. The sweeping story of the birth of a movement, 99% – THE OCCUPY WALL STREET COLLABORATIVE FILM follows a disparate group of activists who converge on lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to build a society organized by nonhierarchical decision-making structures. Inspired by the idea that wealth and political power are dangerously concentrated, grassroots groups from Minneapolis to Mississippi to Oakland soon follow suit, converging to focus on issues crucial to their own communities. After confrontations, expulsions, and mass arrests, the movement finds itself at a crossroad. What’s next?
Designed in part as an experiment modeled on Occupy’s process, the film employs multiple cameras around the country to capture the kinetic, immediate experience on the ground, peppered with a comprehensive range of viewpoints from activists, experts, and detractors. In an era of hopelessness and resignation, this film is a reminder that another world order is still possible.
Project originators Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites previously directed and produced UNTIL THE LIGHT TAKES US, which premiered at AFI Fest and was released theatrically. Ewell’s first professional credit, co-producer on Greg Watkins’ A SIGN FROM GOD (2001), premiered at Sundance. Lucian Read has produced for DAN RATHER REPORTS and has published his photography extensively, from The New York Times to Vanity Fair. Nina Krstic has served as a cinematographer and researcher on a number of non-fiction projects and associate produced ORCHESTRA OF EXILES. Producer Williams Cole previously produced fellow 2013 Sundance filmmaker Barbara Kopple’s GUN FIGHT. Executive Producers Brian Devine and Brooke Devine served a similar role on Sundance alum Ramin Bahrani’s GOODBYE SOLO, while Tyler Brodie has also executive produced a number of previous Sundance titles, including ANOTHER EARTH (2011), TERRI (2011), MOMMA’S MAN (2008), THE BALLAD OF RAMBLIN’ JACK (2000), and PI (1998).
Why You Should Watch:
Within a couple of weeks of Occupy Wall Street’s birth, Ewell and Aites started organizing this collaborative project in NYC before it quickly spread to involve creatives across the US, and extended its crowd-based affinities with a successful Kickstarter campaign at the beginning of the year. While capturing the hope and energy of the movement in its initial weeks, the film doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges OWS has since faced, and isn’t afraid to offer dissenting voices. Incorporating the organizing principles of the OWS, the film presents a range of perspectives while clearly articulating and contextualizing the various issues at the movement’s core, creating a unified documentary because of, not despite, its multiplicity of authors.
To keep updated on the doc, check out its website and Facebook page. For the filmmakers’ thoughts on the film, check out their Meet the Artists profile for Sundance and Indiewire interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.