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Many films need to be made to inform a wider audience of a crucial issue that is being largely ignored. In the UK, one issue being deftly swept under the carpet by the authorities is that of identity registration and our rapidly eroding civil liberties.
If I was to deduct points from Chris Atkins for any aspect of this film, it would be one of timing. Where was this film when these draconian reductions in our powers to decide for ourselves were passed into law? The fact is, Atkins has used every last minute of news up until the film's release as source material. This issue is ongoing; it must have been difficult to know when to stop reporting and when to finish editing, so it is no wonder that this film took so long to arrive.
Politics, and in particular liberal politics, is never very easy to force down the throats of a nationwide audience. In a fairly successful move to sex up and illustrate certain points, the film gives way to more of Simon Robson's (of Knife Party fame) beautiful polemic motion graphics. These (although sometimes hard to read) add to the sense of revolution, that dissent and caring about politics could one day be considered 'cool'.
The serious journalism comes into play in several case studies involving several cases where anti-terrorism laws have been abused by police forces to indiscriminately break up peaceful protests. One shocking section reveals how a weapons guidance manufacturer on the South coast effectively 'hired' the local police force to arrest people attending the weekly protest outside the EDO factory.
The examples of police brutality, recording of the public, and general ignorance are not simply garnering antipathy for police officers. The film's makers clearly understand the need to blame not the police but those that equip them with unmitigated authority.
This film manages to weave between pretty much all of the concerns surrounding UK liberty, legal issues, our rights (as guaranteed by Churchill, apparently) without getting too heavy or legalese, or mentioning Orwell a million times like other idiot journalists who write about civil liberties.
It seems longer than it really is, because it, like many of its long-form docufeature bedfellows, it manages to cram in a lot of relevant and scary imagery and info without always resorting to the dreary voice-over-and-stock-footage formula that is tempting when writing a documentary.
Obviously Chami Chakrabarti was in the film - as director of Liberty, the charity trying to save us from pseudofascists, she acted, as always, as the voice of cool, calm reason.
The one line I was waiting to hear was a rebuttal to: "If I've done nothing wrong, I've got nothing to hide". Maybe I'll put that one in my film:
POLICE STORMTROOPER: Everyone get down on the floor! We can see you all and we have guns pointed at you!
TERRIFIED CIVILIANS: Leave us alone! Get out of my house!
POLICE STORMTROOPER: If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide from us, no?
Postscript: Brian Haw, the only man in Britain allowed to legally protest outside Parliament, went to my screening tonight at the Ritzy Brixton and was sat in front of me. He got an ovation after the screening. What a guy. At several points, I guffawed out loud, right into Brian's left ear. Everyone else in the screening was being polite and quiet and reserved, and there, to the chagrin of the whole audience, I found myself unable to keep from laughing at little quips about our right-wing government.
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