A march for equality in last years Suffragette
The purpose of film is to tell a story to an audience. Something that’s always resonated with an audience is ordinary people rising up against injustice. Film portrays protest perhaps uniquely well, because it is able to transport the viewer to the places, and among the people, whose lives are being affected by the situations going on around them. Film can give us a backstory to the moment of protest, a complete narrative arc.
Reykjavik Rising (screening on 13th July as part of the NRFF) opens with idyllic scenes of a beautiful land, where all seems peaceful, serene, simple, and ordered; Iceland before 2008, Iceland as its citizens believed it was, prior to the financial crash. The simplicity of the way Reykjavik Rising is shot underlines the simplicity of ordinary people’s reactions to complex events, of which they are usually only the smallest part.
I think today’s news finds it difficult to convey the complexity of what they’re reporting on. It either drowns in the shock reaction of rage, or it trivializes the issue. In addition, the media is called to be impartial, to look dispassionately at all sides of any argument. Whether or not it always does is a matter for another day. In film, the choice can be made to focus on one group of voices over any others, commonly the ordinary people of any situation. All films seek to resonate with their audience, so why not show people as close to the audience as possible?
Media reports of the battle for equality in an industry tend to be dry and dull, and – to those involved in campaigning for social improvement – frustratingly focused on ‘difficulties of implementation’. In other words how it’s not going well. That’s where movies can capture a narrative, a fuller picture of a struggle. And in place of that pessimism, an optimism.
In 2010’s Made in Dagenham, for example, focuses on the ordinary wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters who, pushed to their limits, did something extraordinary, and began a process of change with which British industry is unfortunately still struggling.
Personalizing struggles and events is the way those who understand their intentions and implications can educate others, who often find themselves lost in a sea of information. In Steal This Movieand Pride, the focus on a single character (Abbie Hoffman in Steal This Movie), or a small group of broadly sympathetic protagonists (as in Pride) draws viewers into a personal exploration of the worlds they inhabit. In Pride, it’s a picture of the 1980s, the gay subculture and the mining towns. Exploring the group’s dreams and despairs, painting the whole picture, even whilst not being impartial in the way a news reporter would be required to be.
Made in Dagenham (left) and Pride (right)
Films are the contemporary way of telling stories – and storytellers have always drawn out central characters, characters that contain shades of ‘everyman’ to focus their audience’s attention, and make the story relevant to the lives of those beyond the story. Is this a fair and balanced story? Almost certainly not. And getting into the accuracy of any ‘true’ stories is bound to leave you a little disappointed. But designing a narrative gives you something else, a different opportunity than a news broadcast. It gives you the opportunity to present the spirit of a protest, the emotions and motivations entwined within something. And that’s exciting.
Reykjavik Rising is screening on 13th July at The Forum at 7pm with a special QnA session with the director, Danny Mitchell. Like the Facebook Event to stay in touch and buy tickets right now for a reduced price!