This is what Democracy Looks Like
is a documentary
about the protests in Seattle
against the World Trade Organization
in 1999. It is a co-production of the Seattle Independent Media
Center and Big Noise Films. It lasts about 70 minutes, and tells an intense
and inspiring story from the point of view of over 100 different
activists to get the whole scope of the events.
The piece is narrated by Susan Sarandon and Michael Franti, the soundtrack includes Rage Against the Machine, DJ Shadow, and Anne Feeney.
The most important story told by the documentary was the ways in which activists who had previously been working against each other had to transcend their differences and work together against the WTO. For example the members of greenpeace who are against the WTO because of the destructive environmental policies it encourages finally had something in common with the teamsters union who were against the unfair labor policies encouraged by the WTO.
Several things stood out in my mind the first time I saw This is What Democracy Looks Like. There is startling footage of police ripping off ski masks to spray toxic chemicals in the faces of peaceful protesters sitting in the streets, and footage of Black Bloc anarchists taking a major risk to guard a Nike Town from being destroyed by a crowd that got out of hand. The film does show the vandalism that took place in Seattle, but it also shows how easy it is for the TV news media to make it look as though nothing but vandalism had taken place, and shows the other side of the protest, the partying in the streets, the songs, the peaceful marches, and moving speeches.
This is a powerful and comprehensive film which is inspiring and worthwhile. The eye-witness accounts and dramatic footage make it both hard to watch and hard to ignore. It inspires people to political action while still giving a basically even-handed accound of the events of this protest: the infighting among some protesters, the admission that not all of the marches had city permits, as well as evidence that the police acted with undue force.
Lastly, "This is What Democracy Looks Like!" is a slogan shouted by protesters in the Anti-Globalization movement during demonstrations (they have after all a consititutional right to peaceful assembly). This is probably where the title of the film comes from.