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99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film (2013)

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A compelling portrait of the Occupy Wall Street movement. From personal stories to analysis of the big picture issues, supporters, participants and critics shed light on why and how this ... See full summary »
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A compelling portrait of the Occupy Wall Street movement. From personal stories to analysis of the big picture issues, supporters, participants and critics shed light on why and how this movement took off with such explosive force, and what it means. Made in a unique and unprecedented collaboration of 99 filmmakers across the country, the production process of this feature film offers a uniquely diverse way of bringing meaning and context to the movement that has swept up America, and much of the world, with its story. Written by Anonymous

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Rated R for language.
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20 January 2013 (USA)  »

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"It's worth a shot"
4 April 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

To define the "collaborative" part of 99% - The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, the documentary's quartet of director - Aaron Aites, Audrey Ewell, Nina Krstic, and Lucian Read, respectively - have taken various pieces of footage from the Occupy protest, be it news footage, high-quality footage, and even basic cell phone footage, and compiled it into a film that attempts to define and explain just what the Occupy Wall Street movement was meant for.

I always hate starting a review with a criticism, especially a review that is indeed positive, but this "collaborative" filmmaking method, much like the actual Occupy Wall Street protest in New York that took place in the fall of 2011, is a bit scatterplotted and all over the place. However, the filmmakers do their best to sort through all this footage, and the fact that another trio - Brad Comfort, Jeffrey K. Miller, and Nathan Russell - slaved over the editing of this picture definitely warrants my respect, regardless of the finished project. Imagine somebody went on your computer, went to Youtube, typed in "Occupy movement" in the search engine, clicked "search," and then told you to compile all/most of the videos you see into a feature film by the end of the month; not sure I could do it adequately either.

With that, the collaborative filmmaking process is ostensibly a chore, but what results is a pretty efficient, well-put together picture that assembles how the Occupy movement in New York went from something that the internet message boards were abuzz about before exploding into an actual movement involving thousands of souls who flooded Lower Manhattan in the fall of 2011. Its ultimate success was it became a movement that garnered international attention and, finally, American-media attention. Even when the protests were ongoing, I scratched my head at a lot of what the Occupy people were doing. It seemed to be a disorganized, discombobulated mess of people protesting entirely different things. One guy wanted income equality between American's 99% and its richest 1%, while the person next to him wanted more job opportunities, while the person next to that guy wanted higher wages, etc. There seemed to be no central organization, and because of that and some of the questionable elements that went along with the protests, I fear the Occupy movement may've unintentionally diminished not just the impact but the reputation of protests in America.

I will give the Occupiers credit in the regard that they stood up and did something for multiple causes that do need the attention of the people and the United States Government - there's no doubt about that. Economic inequality, the lack of job opportunities, among other pressing issues are things that need to be addressed in present day America, but I'm not so sure the Occupy movement got those elements across as well as they could've. However, what they did was much more noble than those who sit on websites like Reddit, 4Chan, or Wikipedia on a given day where an "internet blackout" and the day of "net neutrality" and claim they're protesting.

My thoughts on the Occupy movement as a whole in no way contribute to my thoughts on 99%, a film that at least makes an efficient attempt at focusing on those involved with the protests as well as those who commented on it through internet media. The film opens by showing us recent revolutions in places like Egypt, Syria, and Libya, making us ask the question "is the United States on its way to a new revolution?" Is the pot boiling and already having bubbles coming running down the sides of the pot into the fire? I'd hate to see what happens when the bubbles reach the fire, personally.

The film does offer great points about the way that the wealthiest Americans have intricate ways of avoiding trouble, be it tax fraud, getting out of jail sentences, etc, when ordinary people are most always dealt the harsher hand of cards in the deck. What is being created now, in American, is a demoralization of ordinary people, and when you have ordinary people getting harsher punishments dolled out for smaller offenses, while the richer Americans go unpunished for acts of fraud and embezzlement, then you have a demoralized population, with the rich doing worse and worse because who really cares? This is the strongest point the film brings up, as well as its detailing of America's constant reliance on police and how constantly-present policemen seem to be the new norm. It shows how involved and sometimes lawless the policemen assigned to patrol the Occupy territory were, often resorting to drastic measures when drastic measures on part of the people had yet to be taken. It's all a scary sight. But probably the best insight comes from a random protester, who took the words right out of my mouth when he was asked "why protest?" and "why fight the law enforcement?" He states, "I think we're f***** either way, but it's worth a shot."

99% - The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film is a curious film oddity thanks to the way it was assembled and the unique way it presents its subject, even if pacing can be an issue and a dissenting side is never really shown. It will also fit in as a nice time capsule for our children's children to see how America has (or maybe hasn't) changed in the years to come. Time will tell.

Directed by: Aaron Aites, Audrey Ewell, Nina Krstic, and Lucian Read.


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