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 Reviews: Film - See 'Battle in Seattle'

ArtBy Barb Kucera

With the recent street clashes at the Republican National Convention and the on-going, multi-billion-dollar bailout of Wall Street, the timing for the release of "Battle in Seattle" couldn't be better.

The film chronicles "five days that rocked the world" when protesters shut down the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999. It also provides important context for today's events.

Back in 1999, many of the same corporations now asking for a government handout were taking part in the behind-closed-doors meetings of the WTO, to set the rules of the global economy. For years, developing countries had tried to challenge the power of multinational corporations who wrote the trade deals to benefit their bottom line and not the people of the developing world – or the United States.

When labor unions, environmental groups, human rights advocates, religious organizations and others converged at the first-ever WTO talks on U.S. soil to demand a new direction in global trade, representatives of developing countries walked out – marking a sea change with ripples still being felt today. ...

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"Battle in Seattle" accurately captures many of the events of those pivotal days. The main characters are portrayed by well-known actors Charlize Theron and Woody Harrelson and up-and-comers Michelle Rodriguez and Martin Henderson. Though fictional and one-dimensional, these characters provide an insight into the motivations of the protesters, police and others.

The real drama of the film does not lie with any one person, however, but rather with the tremendous, history-making nature of the flow of events. The ability of ordinary people to make a difference – this is the story that the corporate-owned media didn't show when it focused only on the conflict in the streets.

One element missing from "Battle in Seattle" is the tremendous role played by independent media whose reports and video of the demonstrations were viewed around the world via the Internet. Members of the Seattle WTO '99 People's History Project are compiling these stories at:

"Battle in Seattle" offers a biting critique of our current economic system in the tradition of films such as "Grapes of Wrath" and "Wall Street." Writer-director Stuart Townsend, a native of Ireland, said the more he learned about what happened on the streets of Seattle, the more he has come to question conventional notions of freedom and democracy. After seeing "Battle in Seattle," you will, too.


Barb Kucera, editor, www.workdayminnesota.org


Reprinted as permitted:

International Labor Communications Association
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Copyright 2008, All rights reserved.

[27 September 2008]

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