#Occupy the movies: Cinema of Urban Revolt and Cinematic Revolution

So the big trailer for Dark Knight Rises debuted last week, and frame by frame you can see references to the "Occupy" movement. People storming through a mansion, marching in the streets and Catwoman telling Bruce Wayne "A storm is coming".
A couple weeks ago was the anniversary of the event that sparked the "Arab Spring" in 2010 when a Tunisian man set himself on fire in protest of his government. While seeing footage of protests occurring all over the world this year it gave me one of those "holy shit!" moments when it brought up a distant memory from half a decade ago. So let's hit the rewind button.

I used to work purchasing DVD's for a Canadian retail chain that had about 20 stores or so. We would purchase them centrally and divvy up all the copies to each store, and when people were still buying movies and music in a tangible format we'd have reps from companies come visit and lavish us with perks and gifts.

When Warner came to visit, the rep handed me a movie voucher to see "V for Vendetta" for free. I had seen trailers for it earlier in the year, as the marketing slogan on posters specifically said "Remember, the 5th of November" and release date was set for November of 2005, but after the London tube bombings of July 11th that year, they pushed the release date to March 2006 seeing the anti-hero spends half the movie blowing up London. Then the posters were tagged with the lame "Freedom! Forever!" like a last minute marketing team brainstorm.

So we asked the rep what he thought of the movie and he said:
"I'll be honest, it won't do great business at the box office, but in 10 years people will be talking about. It's going to be one of those 'Blade Runner' type of films where people will be calling it a masterpiece."

I knew of the graphic novel from the 80s, but never really checked it out despite being an Alan Moore fan, but as I was watching the film I kept thinking "I can't believe this got made". Part of the reason it got the green light was that the Wachowski Brothers wrote the script/produced it (early rumours were they directed it as well). *(SPOILER At the end, when the crowds of people appear to overthrow the dictatorship dressed in the Guy Fawkes masks and the Rolling Stones "Street Fighting Man" blared over the end credits)* I was honestly flabbergasted as to how good the film was. As the weeks went by the film disappeared to the bottom of the box office and little or nothing was said about it other than the controversy around the bombing scenes. But it had incredibly eerie parallels to what was happening in the world at the time, as well as subversive jabs to what could happen (Islam declared illegal, gays imprisoned etc).


Fast forward to 2010. A Tunisian self immolates himself to protest his government, sparking the "Arab Spring" that soon spreads to worldwide protests/riots. Among the crowds of unruly mobs on the streets you see glimpses of the Guy Fawkes masks identical to the ones in V for Vendetta. If you search Youtube you see hundreds of clips from the movie uploaded in reference to current events. Websites dedicated to quotes. It hasn't been 10 years yet, but I think it's safe to say this movie has become a modern classic.
The "Anonymous" Hacker's group uses the mask as their symbol, and if you read the original graphic novel for V for Vendetta, the protagonist "V" is essentially a hacker as he logs into the mainframe computer that controls everything and supplies the population with masks to wear on November 5th. 

So in essence seeing the only people thrown into the prison he was in were gays, the insane or those infected with the plague, it's safe to say that the character V was indeed a gay revolutionary hacker. 

The original was written in response to Thatcher's Britain when the UK tumbled into economic dire straights, but now with a struggle in power and who controls the information, the far right wing are notorious for being intolerant of sexuality and religion, race etc. The parallels to the original story are uncanny.

Mirroring what's going on in the streets all over the world, there is a stark shift in how artists are delivering their work to the public. Before was a traditional venue of going through the big company channels, but now essentially things like distribution are being democratized, where the middle man is being cut out and you can buy directly from the artists themselves.

So 2012 is going to be an interesting year, both on screen and off. Frankly, I am kind of excited for both. Seeing how a film like V for Vendetta can inspire a global movement, it's a reminder that the power of art is indeed dangerous to those who hold the keys. Pretty soon there just might not be any doors left.

This reminded me of other films throughout history that potrayed what was going on at the time. Now it's blatantly obvious we're headed towards another revolution of some sorts, here are some examples: