Perhaps fittingly, Amir Amirani’s new documentary We Are Many characterises not only the notion of mass public protest, but the rise of the political documentary itself. In it, we travel back to 9/11, what many commentators have since referred to as The End of History regarding national security and privacy, which gave birth to a protest movement that has manifested itself in countless ways over the last thirteen years. Equally so it has given thousands of hours’ worth of material for filmmakers and activists to reach a bulk audience with.
The attacks on the Twin Towers were a prelude to the Iraq War, the main focus of Amirani’s film, and he invites academics (including perpetual talking head Noam Chomsky), as well as politicians from Clare Short to David Blunkett, to speak about the social, political and moral implications of the 2003 global protest against the decision to invade. It’s a bit of a churn through the series of events that happened from the day of the marches on 15 February 2003 to the present day, but foregrounds some of the lasting legacies that have affected change across the world today.
Using a mix of broadcast media and web footage, Amirani builds his narrative on how the whole conception of the War was a fallacy, how Bush and Blair used the 9/11 attacks as a platform to essentially attack a country they didn’t like (a commonly held view fumbled all to hell by the Chilcot Inquiry). Through some nimble editing (spliced footage of bombings intercut with farcical tuxedo-roasts in the US) Amirani pinpoints the dichotomy that it was all smiles at home while fire rained down on Baghdad. Really, this was how the West managed to homogenise the Middle East: portrayed as a terrorist gangland that should be feared, loathed and subdued.
While Amirani’s film sadly lacks the urgency of Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s 5 Broken Cameras, or Karim El Hakim and Omar Shargawi’s ½ Revolution, or even Elyes Baccar’s Rogue Parole, it does highlight a fundamental misconception of protest: that it’s an explosion rather than a raging fire. Within that are the paradoxes of injustice. War, in all its ugly horror, brings about a strong solidarity otherwise dormant in everyday life, as well as the galvanising joy stirred by organisation and comradeship. We Are Many
Undoubtedly, Amirani’s background as a political journalist and documentary filmmaker for the BBC has guided his stance and ability in creating We Are Many. This is a very personal project, too, as he himself took to the streets of Berlin during the day of global action. Often, we now look to documentaries such as Brian Knappenberger’s We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists for information on how activism has transformed in the digital age; We Are Many however conveys the roots of this action in a spirited, passionate and invigorating account of vocal democracy.
We Are Many celebrates its World Premiere at Sheffield International Documentary Festival on 8 & 9 June.