Thursday, 5 January 2012

We Are Many: Will We Be On The Same Page?

Milan Kundera’s memorable phrase, “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”, will find ample resonance in the documentary, ‘We are Many’ , that BBC journalist Amir Amirani is producing and directing on the 15 February 2003 global anti-war demonstrations in which millions participated but were then ignored by their leaders, principally the Bush-Blair-Aznar clique, which invaded and destroyed Iraq on a monstrous lie.

The event needs remembering for at least three reasons: it set the pattern for rolling wars in this century; it was the first truly global day of demonstration in which tens of millions participated in every continent and the participants asked nothing for themselves. It was a moral outrage against war mongering that had hijacked the cherished words, liberty, democracy and peace. Due for release on the tenth anniversary of the marches, the documentary will unfold “the drama of many millions of everyday people fighting to stop a war, set against a small number of people working to start one”. It will chronicle an “untold chapter in the history of people power… which reveals the potential power of ordinary people as well as the dark underbelly of the war machine”. Amirani lets it be known that the “story of the greatest mass mobilization in history is also a devastating critique of the state of democracy today”.

This is as good a start as any. Amirani works for the BBC but his employers would not fund him, which is why he has had to look for other sources and contributions from the people. BBC’s mistake is perhaps the least worst thing to happen since it will allow the story to be told without its restrictive framework. More than that, the BBC was stingy at best in giving airtime to the voices against the war and, once it started, enthusiastically embedded itself with the invading armies.

Amirani’s BBC experience will contribute to the making of a fine documentary. Yet that is also a legitimate source of concern. Will his narrative be able to look beyond the London-New York mental axis? How many of the talking heads will be from say Spain, Italy or Germany? Will they be central or the story or tokens? Will we see such inconvenient figures like George Galloway and John Pilger in the documentary? If, as Amirani says, he intends to look at reports and commissions on the war, will he also look at the media, his own included, which prepared the ground for the war? Curiously, Antarctica is mentioned as a shooting location but not Baghdad, which too had a large anti-war demonstration, no doubt aided by the Saddam government, and which has had to live with the consequences.

Clearly, funds are a problem and will dictate many of the choices but hopefully Amirani’s enterprise will be able to factor these in.

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