Clarion calls for activism

Morning Star

Clarion calls for activism

Chronicle of Protest (directed by Michael Chanan)
Wednesday 27 April 2011
by Ian Sinclair

A joint venture between the New Statesman magazine and Roehampton University, Michael Chanan’s Chronicle of Protest is the first documentary to look at the burgeoning anti-cuts movement in Britain.

It’s a film that Chanan hopes will be viewed as “a bit dangerous” by the ruling order because of its wholehearted celebration of the protest movement.

Beginning in November 2010 and ending with the massive TUC-organised demo last month, it’s a whistle-stop tour of the assorted resistance to the deepest public spending cuts since the second world war.

Many of the rising stars of the new movement appear including comedian Josie Long, ex-Morning Star journo Laurie Penny, UK Uncut, influential website False Economy and academic Nina Power who notes that “we are fighting against an incredibly brutal, fast attempt to eradicate anything that has any social dimension, any non-profit dimension.”

While the trade unions and Tony Benn are featured, this is undoubtedly a movement propelled forward by young people, from the students involved in university occupations to those creatively protesting against the tax-dodgers on our high street.

“The government is very much like a spider,” Penny says about her involvement in heckling Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP at the London School Of Economics. “It is actually more frightened of us than we are frightened of it.”

Soundtracked by the sloganeering First of May Band and mixing Chanan’s own footage with activist videos, Chronicle of Protest makes a valiant effort to capture the politics and energy of the movement.

But in its attempt to be bang up to date and focusing on several sites of ongoing resistance – universities, libraries, art galleries and banks – the film is sometimes a mish-mash of images and interviews, with arguments not always fully followed through.

Yet the anti-cuts movement is by its very diverse and leaderless nature a difficult beast to summarise and film coherently.

It’s too early to draw any firm conclusions about the outcome of the resistance to the government’s cuts agenda. But this exciting film is an impressive attempt at documenting and making sense of this tumultuous time in British history.

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