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Tue September 23, 2008
Battle in Seattle
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"Labour itself is but a sorrowful song,
The protest of the weak against the strong."
Frederick William Faber
As a liberal, I empathize with the protestors in the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. And I do empathize. The need for world organizations and big companies to consider the health of poorer countries before appropriating their resources is paramount.
In Battle in Seattle, director Stuart Townsend uses the stock devices of the docudrama: smoothly intercutting between scenes of police and protestors and expertly interspersing authentic footage with the dramatized. The feel is as if the audience is participant; the dilemma of how far either side should go in keeping the peace or disturbing it is palpable.
The drama is enhanced by fictionalizing the opposing forces through the lens of policeman Dale (Woody Harrelson) and his wife, Ella (Charlize Theron), both caught up in the escalating violence and too neatly tied to the issues of each side. The challenges of the protestors are also too deftly tied to a romance of the leader and a follower.
This facile mixing of truth and fiction leaves me a bit cold, as if I were the victim of a fraud because the reality of the historic event seems trivialized by clich?d romances and tragedies. I am always dismayed by the Michael-Moore-style loading of the left to the exclusion of the right's point of view: What are the purposes of the WTO? Has it been successful? How? These questions are rarely explored any more than the complicated motives and lives of the protestors.
But the docudrama succeeds in illuminating the WTO and its critics. As history has written, little progress has been made during the intervening decade even though the talks were stopped in Seattle. But as one of the combatants points out, only by small steps and persistence can the battle be won.
And so went the Battle in Seattle.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain?action=sectionIndex&sid=13 . Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com