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Film Of The Week Rebels with a cause

MARIA DUARTE recommends a compelling behind-the-scenes documentary about the founding of Extinction Rebellion and its summer of mass protests in 2019

Rebellion (15)
Directed by Maia Kenworthy and Elena Sanchez Bellot

“IF YOU’RE not in prison, you’re not in resistance,” advocates Roger Hallam — one of the co-founders of Extinction Rebellion — in this compelling documentary about the birth and rise of the global environmental movement.

With unprecedented access, filmmakers Maia Kenworthy and Elena Sanchez Bellot follow a group of ordinary people and capture the behind-the-scenes story of how XR was launched in 2018 on a commitment to save the planet with non-violent civil disobedience.

Hallam, a Welsh farmer by day, asks that the film does not mention the term climate change, suggesting that it’s “corporate framing.”

He believes disruption is the key and that actions speak louder than words: “You keep going until you are banged up or dead.”

XR’s month of concerted London protests in April 2019, which included supergluing themselves to Shell’s HQ and staging a mass sit-down in Oxford Circus alongside a pink yacht, captured the news headlines and public sympathy.

The film outlines XR’s achievements — such as forcing the government to declare a climate emergency in May 2019 and agree to net-zero carbon emissions (albeit by 2050) — as well as the growing dissent within its ranks, including Hallam’s activist daughter Savannah staging an “XR intervention” on him.

It only briefly touches upon how the group alienated the public with some antics, such as gluing themselves to the top of a Tube train during rush hour, causing chaos: “Middle-class folk telling the working class what to do!” tweeted one traveller; “Huge own-goal for XR,” said another.

The way the police deal with them makes for disturbing viewing: from friendly and respectful at first to hard-line and aggressive, knocking down the front door of XR’s offices, using a cherry picker to bulldoze their way through peaceful protesters and banning protests across London, which the film suggests followed political pressure to stop their non-violent demonstrations and was later ruled unlawful by the High Court.

Rebellion is a fascinating and insightful film about the power of collective action and a stark reminder of the fragility of our democratic freedoms — and how quickly they can be lost.

Available on Netflix

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