Tuesday’s Sundance profiles begin with the penultimate entry in the Documentary Premieres: Greg Barker’s WE ARE THE GIANT, an exploration of the revolutionary spirit.
Sundance Program Description:
Since late 2010, more than a dozen nations have experienced popular uprisings that have collectively been called the Arab Spring. Protests, buoyed by predominantly young participants and social-media organizing, have exposed repression and led to regime changes. What does it mean to take part in a collective action that has the potential to unseat dictators and bring previously undreamt-of freedoms to a people?
Director Greg Barker (MANHUNT screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival) explores this question through a series of insightful activist portraits: Osama describes how his 21-year-old, Virginia-raised son, Muhannad, fought against Gaddafi’s forces in Benghazi. Ghassan and Motaz remain committed to peaceful resistance even as Syria descends into ever-more-hopeless violence. Sisters Maryam and Zainab become pivotal opposition figures while their father suffers in a Bahrain prison. These stories, underscored by echoes from past resistance leaders—ranging from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela to Aung San Suu Kyi—illustrate what drives revolutionaries and reveal the sacrifices they must make to pursue their causes.
This marks Barker’s third film in Park City, following last year’s MANHUNT, which went on to win an Emmy, and SERGIO (2009, editing award). The former war correspondent also served as a documentary competition juror in 2010. Working with him again are the producers of his previous Sundance entries: Julie Goldman, whose most recent Sundance credits include GIDEON’S ARMY (2013), GOD LOVES UGANDA (2013), AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY (2012), and A PLACE AT THE TABLE (2012); John Battsek, also at Sundance with fellow 2014 entries CAPTIVATED: THE TRIALS OF PAMELA SMART, THE GREEN PRINCE, and HAPPY VALLEY. The film’s editor, Joshua Altman, is also a Park City alum, having edited BONES BRIGADE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2012), THE TILLMAN STORY (2010), and WE LIVE IN PUBLIC (2009); as are cinematographers Muhammad Hamdy, who shot last year’s audience award winner, THE SQUARE; and Frank-Peter Lehmann, who shot both MANHUNT and GOOGLE AND THE WORLD BRAIN (2013).
Why You Should Watch:
As noted in my program description above, Barker’s new film takes a wide-ranging look at the promise and perils of the Arab Spring, exploring the impact standing up for the greater goods of freedom and nation has on family and self. By expanding his view of resistance beyond one single country, and incorporating the hard-fought lessons from well-known past revolutionaries from outside the Middle East, Barker universalizes his protagonists’ struggles, moving them beyond the specifics of any single dictator or religion to speak to larger, basic concerns.
Check out a teaser from the doc here. For more information, visit the film’s Facebook page. As they become available, I’ll link to Barker’s Meet the Artist Sundance video profile and to his Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
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