Hot Docs 2014: Everyday Rebellion – Documentary Review
Director: Arash T. Riahi Runtime: 112 minutes Country: Switzerland, Germany, Austria Rating: PG
Director Arash T. Riahi describes Everyday Rebellion as a celebration of life, and he encourages viewers to see this film with optimism. It is impossible, however, to resist the abysmal feeling this documentary instills on those watching. One of the most powerful and engaging documentaries to come out of the industry in the last decade, Everyday Rebellion is powerful not only due to its heavy political theme, but in the way it commands the documentary medium, reclaiming it and reminding us of how intrinsically capable of education it is.
The film follows three main stories that all illustrate non violent activism in different ways: A neighborhood assembly in Spain helping one of its residents to resist the claim of his house by the bank. The Ukrainian protest group Femen, and more specifically the activities of Inna Shevchenkor, and finally, the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. Using these three stories, along with footage of other movements across the globe, Everyday Rebellion is more or less a guide to the history of activism, as well as a window into the inner workings of many of these movements.
The documentary is heavy when it comes to political content, having dictatorship and lack of democracy at its center. It has an interesting mixture of a terribly serious premise, but with bright and dynamic imagery that shows horrific episodes in the political lives of nations, but also lighthearted and amicable instances in which people come together in order to help a cause move forward. Using footage from various well known protests in history, as well as interviews with advocates of non-violent activism, Everyday Rebellion relies entirely on real life footage of activists in order to make its point. It also makes use of a narrator that whispers, paying homage to Jean-Luc Godard’s very own in 2 or 3 Things I know About Her, which gives the film an even more inspiring demeanor.
The film does a great job in portraying the energy and youthfulness of activist movements, and that is perhaps where its biggest weakness lies. While providing great amounts of important and inspiring information, the film is almost too optimistic. It romanticizes activism, it turns it into an activity that can be simply achieved by following a formula, but it lacks information on how to deal with the aftermath of manifestation. Although this doesn’t affect the film in its entirety, nor does it subtract from its powerful content; having a follow-up on life after activism would only help the film garner more points of view that would make its message all the more convincing.
Everyday Rebellion is in many ways a very beautiful film. Although idealistic and utterly romantic in the way it handles activism and its success, it still hits somewhere deep inside the viewer that demands reflection, whether it be in favor of non violent activism or not. As a tool for awareness, the documentary is of the utmost efficiency, especially in the way it subtly leaves spectators with tactics and tips on how to start and handle public manifestation. The film is also expanding into other digital platforms to help spread its message in different countries. This film is an authentic cinematic experience, but most importantly it is a tool for newer generations to access and understand activism, and the power that comes with it.