It’s been over a year and people are still talking about the mass mobilization of protest and the repressive tactics used by authorities at the Toronto G20 Summit. Justin Saunders and Joseph Cami were there with a film crew and their documentary Tales from the G20 screens tonight in Montreal at Cinema Politica at Concordia.
Stephanie Laughlin interviewed Saunders and Cami about the film, what happened at the G20, what it means for the future of activism, the Occupy movement and upcoming projects.
Stephanie Laughlin: What was your role at the G20?
Justin Saunders\ Joseph Cami: As filmmakers, we wore the hats of documentarians, not demonstrators, trying to portray the G20 reality on our side of the fence with an open mind and a sincere interest in the voices we encountered along the way. But in the lead up to the G20, many of the people involved in the project were also involved with the mobilization itself.
SL: Why did you feel it was necessary to make this film?
JS\JC: This film was made collectively both as an exercise in counter-propaganda and as an attempt to make a high-production value documentary that deals with street protests. We were particularly interested in breaking the usual ‘riot porn’ framework that is common in activist-oriented media. The film itself seeks to explore the militarization of public space, and how the quashing of dissent has become an accepted and unchallenged reality in our society, especially in a context where state and corporate media spin and/or outright deny these problems even exist.
But most of the issues and voices found in the film are simply representations of what we found along the way, along the march, with our cameras on and our minds open to the possibility that perhaps the reason why the wall was erected was not to keep people out, but rather to keep out the ideas about equality and justice that many protestors were there to defend.
SL: How did the Toronto G20 affect the future of protests?
JS\JC: The G20 Summit had a deep impact on the political climate in the city. Certainly, the dissent it prompted had not been seen for at least 10 years, since the anti-poverty actions organized by OCAP and the infamous Queen’s Park Riot. So to some extent this was a refocusing moment for social movements in the city, and a number of Torontonians were politicized as a result of the heavy-handed state repression of dissent.
Yet this repression also had a chilling effect on grassroots activism, as several prominent community organizers were arrested and charged with conspiracy, and now face the prospect of lengthy prison sentences, imposed for the ‘crime’ of helping to facilitate the logistics of a large-scale demonstration.
SL: What are your thoughts about the future of the occupy movement?
JS\JC: There is a tremendous amount of possibility in this current movement, and it has already achieved a measure of longevity, broad support and widespread adoption; there are also obvious relationships to existing anti-austerity and pro-democracy struggles in Europe, North Africa, the
Middle East and elsewhere. However, there is a pressing need for serious political education in this newly politicized constituency, as well as a danger that these occupations will become too inwardly focused.
Their success will depend on the degree to which they can build momentum for external action, and make connections to other movements. By the same token, it is incumbent on experienced social justice activists to help with this process. There has been a notable lack of such participation thus far.
SL: Is this film screening again anywhere soon?
JS: The film is available to Cinema Politica locals for programming in their respective cities. We would also like to have another screening in Toronto sometime during the winter. We also hope that other festivals will pick it up.
SL: Any future projects you can talk about?
JS\JC: We recently completed a project about the emergence of the surveillance state in Canada. It’s a short documentary series that is part of a broader campaign to draw attention to Orwellian legislation being rammed through Parliament by Canada’s ruling Conservative Party. The films are online at unlawfulaccess.net
We also have a feature-length documentary film in the works about surveillance and and the closing down of a democratic society.
Tales from the G20 screens along with END: CIV tonight in Montreal at Cinema Politica, Concordia University, 1455 deMaisonneuve West, room H-110, for full CP Schedule, please visit cinemapolitica.org