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Film, Album, Single and Event Reviews

Film Review: 'We Are Many' - The 2003 anti-war demonstrations are put under the microscope in new documentary

  • By gregw
  • 17 May 2015
  • Release Date 22 May 2015
Damon Albarn and more talk about the Iraq war in new documentary

By Greg Wetherall

****

Director: Amir Amirani

Duration: 110 minutes (UK)

If you were to raise the topic of America and Britain’s Iraq invasion in a pub, it would likely be greeted with hostility. The reason for this is simple: time has failed to dissipate the betrayal that many feel over the false premise for intervention in 2003. There were no WMDs. We were told that there were.

With an impressive calibre of contributors, Amir Amirani’s fine documentary film, We Are Many, locks focus on the events leading up to the massive international protest, including the 1.5 million people who marched through the streets of London. Damon Albarn, Noam Chomsky, Tony Benn, Brian Eno, Danny Glover, Mark Rylance and more take to the stand to offer their recollections and feelings regarding the politics of war and the politics of protest.

It is a film that offers a sad reminder of how impotent the masses were at that time and how democracy was presented as a fallacy; a toothless beast. When the people yelled in unison, the powers that be ignored the eruption and trundled on.

This is best exemplified in how, a year into the war, George Bush took to a lectern at a fund raiser. He made jokes hypothesising on the whereabouts of the WMDs. In Amir Amirani’s film, a powerful counterpoint is offered, by pitching the footage of the speech against pictures of the injured and the dead. When sat amongst the howls of laughter from Bush’s speech, it is a depressing and chilling moment, and a jaw dropping segment. 

There are some additional snippets of information passed out by the feature that will be news to most. Richard Branson waxes lyrical on how he had arranged to fly out to speak to Saddam Hussein in an attempt to urge him to leave the country. He planned to do so with Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela in tow. But, as he touched down in South Africa to collect Nelson Mandela, it was already too late. The war had commenced and the meeting never took place.

For a substantial portion of the runtime, the futility of the protests engenders a dyspeptic weariness. It creeps up on the viewer like an enveloping mist; the suffocating realisation that for all of our mobilisation in rallies; the enacting of our constitutional right to protest; we are the pawns swept away by the totems of power to engage in whatever they wish. For all the shouting, the ear muffs are donned and it is ‘business as usual’. Or is it? The coda to the film is suggestively optimistic.

It is this twist that seals a thoroughly engaging, emotive and compelling documentary.

On 21st May 2015, there will be a satellite screening at Curzon Mayfair, transmitted to cinemas across the country, featuring a Q&A with Jon Snow, Damon Albarn, Amir Amirani, Omid Djalili, Lindsey German, Phillipe Sands and Greg Wise.

We Are Many is on general release from 22nd May 2015.


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