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Battle in Seattle- Anti-Capititalism on the Big Screen

category international | arts and media | feature author Sunday February 24, 2008 00:32author by Paula Geraghtyauthor email mspgeraghty at yahoo dot ie Report this post to the editors

featured image

Townsend's interpretation of the famous Battle in Seattle, where the World Trade Organisation was shut down due to the emergence of what the media labelled the anti-globalisation movement has finally hit the big screen, and it doesn't get much bigger (in Dublin) than the prestigous Savoy Screen Number 1!

The whirlwind fictional interpretation of the event which launched the global phenomenon of Anti-capitalism has finally hit the big screen Stuart Townsend a famous actor from Howth (I don't think i've seen anything he's in!) has given what has been a fundamental part of our collective experience a fictionalised treatment and presented it to us in the cinema. This is important as he has given the whole issue a very sympathetic treatment even though he wasn't part of the protests back in 1999 in Seattle. The film gives a rapid history of who what where when and why of the WTO and the 5 W's of the movement which emerged to tackle it.

Yes there's a love story, complex personal stories around the event itself, views from side of the Police, the Mayor of Seattle, the pressures as the National guard were to be called in- all to lend an air of balance and credibility- who in Hollywood will fund and distribute a guerrilla movie of what actually happened then ( yes there's lost of alternatives- post them all up)? Yes Stuart in the Q & A session after explained how he researched it. He said it was all internet based research, and it shows. there's a depth and a quality to how the story is shown and told, not from a workers or black block viewpoint but from the viewpoint of some of the affinity group organisers. It's always easier to tell a story from a finite viewpoint especially from such a scale of protest and as a result the overall story of how the tens of thousands of protesters from all over the Northern and Southern American Hemispheres' managed to organise to shut down the WTO wasn't conveyed.

However this article is not to knock the wonderful efforts of the film. Since Seattle there has been much ground made over highlighting the issues around global capitalism and it's been very uneven to say the least. But the battle for ownership of the stories and who tells those stories has been an interesting one. The Indymedia phenomenon has been one of those, bypassing or challenging received news by letting those who don't have a voice have a voice and thereby challenging the corporate media is one of those. When the stories, issues and debates around anti-capitalism are given a Hollywood treatment it is important how that's conveyed.

Many of the audience consisted of people who had participated in Genoa, Florence, Evian, Gottenburg and Scotland against the G8. Some lamented their love life was far less glamourous than portrayed in the film and the cushiness of police cells in Seattle compared to the treatment many received at the hands of the European police. But there was a palpable excitement that retelling that story in cinema does validate a recent history of resistance- it is a story worth telling and we want more.

The film ends with that undying optimism that another world is possible and worth fighting for, a message which carries through right the whole of the film. The film does end on Seattle but refers to many of the global protests which are not Eurocentric and sees the resistance passing throughout the globe from Philipines, Korea, Venezuela, and Honduras to name a few.

This ain't a definitive review, just some quick notes to go with some pictures some would like to see. And yes Stuart Townsend did mention Tara and the M3, not in a favourable light of course. Townsend and Theron are part of the good guys. He described how difficult it was to get a distributor for the film and how he was finalising that particular deal.

Is this film worth going to see? Definitely.

(c) Paula Geraghty



Question from Dr. Ní Bhróilcain
Question from Dr. Ní Bhróilcain

Paparazzi moment
Paparazzi moment

author by Carmel Ni Dhuibheanaighpublication date Wed Feb 20, 2008 13:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was part of the audience on the day and thoroughly enjoyed the film. Stuart Townsend is a genius and if this is only the start of his career as a Director then he has set a very high standard for himself indeed.

He has used his power very wisely in choosing the subject matter and conveying it to the masses in film. A brave debut. I am sure that it must have been a privelege for him to do so as much as it was for us to watch it. Battle in Seatle is a stunning, powerful, evocative film that will stay with you, making you want to know more, to Do more.

It achieves its aim, awakening, informing, raising awareness. We need more films like this one.

In the questions and answer session afterwards it was brilliant to hear him lambast the Govt over the M3 Motorway. This was greeted by hoops and hollers and resounding applause.

Maybe someday he might make a film about the Tara scandal. Sure would love to see that.


author by Libertyloverpublication date Wed Feb 20, 2008 14:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Pity we may have to wait a year before we can actually see the film.

Just out of curiosity, what was the question posed by Dr Ni Bhrolchain?

author by Carmel Ni Dhuibheanaighpublication date Wed Feb 20, 2008 15:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors


She asked a very good question about the responsibility of Hollywood towards what it produces and commended Stuart on his film.

He answered by pointing out that Hollywood and the film industry in general is about Buisness, Show Buisness and comedy and horror sell.

Lets hope Battle in Seatle sells out everywhere when it finally gos on general release. It would be fantastic to see it start a trend in this genre of film making. There are too many mediocre offerings in cinema at the moment.


author by M. Ni Bhrolchainpublication date Wed Feb 20, 2008 17:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Great to see your review Paula.
The question I should have asked and thought about asking has been mentioned by Carmel.
When is he planning to film the Tara story. He will be the right man for that thorny subject! Or maybe, like all of us, he's too close to the issue.
There were many other much better and interesting questions asked by others rather than by myself.
Great film, I loved it, enjoyed is probably the wrong word, I found it very upsetting. There was quite also the extraordinary sensation of sitting in the theatre with a community of activists - not the usual film audience in one place at one time.

Related Link: http://www.savetara.com
author by seedotpublication date Wed Feb 20, 2008 22:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

build our own.

Lets not trivialise, personalise or fetishise our stories. Who needs stars and paps in their sick embrace.

Seattle Prelude


People Unite Police Riot


Occuppied seattle


Unwilling Captives


What Democracy Looks Like


Also showing on DublinCommunityTV - cable 802

author by pollytixpublication date Thu Feb 21, 2008 02:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

When one argues not to trust the media there is currency but when 'slebs' who are rooted in and wish to reflect an under reflected and undermined part of our history of resistance and hope, do you knock it or not? One highlights the alternatives naturally but what has wider mass appeal? There is legitimacy in acknowledging that. It's not quiet the same as Bono. Reflecting ourselves to ourselves is a small if significant part of that process, but there ain't nothing like a big screen reflection. We don't have that big screen. Let's get that big screen!

Now talk to us!

author by seedotpublication date Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

How is it different to Bono?

The collective experience of a screening is important - I've been happy to haul big screens into warehouses so we can show media in this way - and know you've done the same pollytix ;).since you got us the big screen.

But personally I wouldn't view this film as anything more than entertainment - the commodification and neutering of something that was genuinely revolutionary.

If you want information or a decent reflection on what happened in Seattle watch the series I linked to, produced by the worlds first independent media centre.

If you want to communicate to people about what happened seed a torrent, burn a dvd, start a tv station.

If you want to see a love story in 3 acts against a back drop of rioting (this week - next week its alien invasion, week after its famines) then buy the popcorn, park your brain and hand €8.50 to be shared out amongst the cocaine budgets of various self important non entities.

don't get your politics from hollywood.

author by Pollytixpublication date Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You can also make a film!

author by Ceannpublication date Sun Feb 24, 2008 13:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm not surprised that some people like to glorify violence. This saddens me.

author by ceann eilepublication date Sun Feb 24, 2008 13:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

of course there was a gloss on it, some people's brains have developed a layer of fat that makes them incapable of
reacting to a movie unless it has the pretty girl, the love story and the good cop/bad cop theme. Thats cos their
brains have developed into mush due to believing that anything can be bought and you don't really have to do anything
to achieve it. at least Townsend encapsulated some of the energy in what was an amlgaman of mushy love story and
docu-drama that might at least bring some of the issues to the lackadaisical who think we are living in peace and freedom.

ceann- there was no glorification of violence in the movie.
it was (in that respect) quite skippy and light.

i have to say woody harrelson was really cute (again).
as to glorification of violences-well- the presof the US and his buddies like to kill people who are different to them
and then to sell it for mass media consumption in a normalisation of violence that occasionally rears its psychosis
in massacres etcetera.

I liked the turtles idea- more turtles and noodly appendages, less fucked off presbyterians with guns and bombs!

author by eco joepublication date Mon Feb 25, 2008 19:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Battle of Seattle is a fictional story of the 1999 protest against the world trade organisation. This big budget feature film intercuts some actual documentary footage of the protests.

Above all this is not an activist produced film. It has a classic Hollywood narrative with super happy dapppy ending. To this films credit it exposures the dummies guide to the W.T.O, although form a very liberal reformist view of point.

The production values of this feature film are of an extremely high standard. Barry Ackroyd was Director of Photography (D.O.P – Wind the stakes the Barley) and the sound design / sound effects are worth watching this film alone for. It is quiet obvious that the director Stuart Townsend comes form an acting background as the film is very much performance based. Actor / activist wooden Harrrelson seals the show as a red neck riot cop.

There are some cringing moments were at the end the film the cop apologies to a prisoner for beating him, or the journalist on a live broadcast instead of covering the Bill Clinton speech joins the protests and they all cover their mouths before the live broadcast is cut.

It is not an empowering film to watch because the main characters are all highly organised super sexy action heroes. There is no representation of collective organising principles, affinity groups other activist organising tools.

Another absent feature of the film is that there was only a little analysis of the mainstream media and no representation of the alternative media. In fairness there is quiet a diverse group of characters who articulate their reasons for protesting.

Above all its a action film with a liberal view of so called left wing politics. It took the director six years (and counting still waiting on a distribution deal) to make and by the nature of big budget films I am sure he had in censor some parts for a more “commercially accessible multiplex experience”


Related Link: http://www.battleinseattlemovie.com/
author by black flaganpublication date Mon Feb 25, 2008 21:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The revolution has been televised!!!
way to glorify a movement that achieved nothing, the corpse has'nt even gone cold yet and the vultures have moved in. it will probably serve to make people who went to a protest or two feel good about themselves as they imagine themselves as one of the characters.sick. too little too late.

always neighbourhood never hollywood.

author by dunkpublication date Tue Feb 26, 2008 02:38author email fuspey at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

seedot, thanks for those links to Showdown in Seattle

a few more excellent links to what grew out of seattle....indymedia

Eye of the Storm / En el ojo del tormento
(15 mins): IMC- Argentinas 15 minute film which describes the origins of and growth of the ever expanding network that is INDYMEDIA, and then focuses on how and why it grew in Argentina during their period of economic and political chaos.

Globalisation and the Media
21 minute, award winning film from Undercurrents. This film explores how the media is involved in shaping public opinion during the 'War on Terrorism' and Globalisation. Focuses on the birth and development of the "passionate tellings of the truth" open system that is INDYMEDIA and how it brought the vivid truth of police brutality from the anti g8 manifestacion in 2001 in Genoa.
13.5 mins into it focuss on imc-seattle and what was going on

lastly quantum physicist, author of "tao of physics", anti-capitalist author, systems theorist... founder of centre for eco-literacy in berkley, california fritjof capra refered to seattle n30 as:

the day the political landscape was changed forever
he has a good essay here:

amidst tear gas and protest....the day the political landscape was changed forever
amidst tear gas and protest....the day the political landscape was changed forever

author by Carmel Ni Dhuibheanaighpublication date Fri Feb 29, 2008 08:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Above all this is not an activist produced film. It has a classic Hollywood narrative with super happy dapppy ending. To this films credit it exposures the dummies guide to the W.T.O, although form a very liberal reformist view of point.

Hi Eco Joe,

I would disagree with some of your above post. It IS a Hollywood film certainly, but I for one didnt think it had a super happy dappy ending. Maybe I am a dummy, but a more enlightened one :) No, seriously, I didnt know about the mass suicides in India or any of the other terrifying statistics that were displayed on screen at the end of the film. I heard gasps from the audience, no one I know left happy.

So, I still think the film gos a long way to spreading the message. Hollywood or not, it will reach a wider audience than an Activist led type screening and the hope is that it will spur people into investigating what is really going on around them , in the real world.

Thanks to those who have posted links to actual events. Very sobering. Another reason to thank Stuart Townsend- for activating discussion.


author by apublication date Tue Mar 04, 2008 17:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anyone who is interested in seeing some good political films check out the Progressive film club. Its a new not for profit film club running on Sunday nights in The New Theatre ,Connolly bookshop in Temple bar. The club shows films from around the world on issues like struggles for peoples rights , national liberation, social justice etc. including many films that have never been screened in Ireland. Its the only cinema club of this kind that I know of in Dublin. Sunday the 6 of March they are screening" I saw Ben Barka get killed "a drama based on the disappearance of Moroccan intellectual and national liberation leader Mehdi Ben Barka by french police in 1965.

author by dunkpublication date Fri Sep 19, 2008 17:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Battle in Seattle: With A-List Cast, New Film Re-Creates Historic Protest Against WTO

We speak to the film’s writer and director, Stuart Townsend, as well as David Solnit, one of the key organizers of the WTO protests and co-founder of the Seattle WTO People’s History Project.

Townsends site re the film

http://www.realbattleinseattle.org/ seeks:

We seek to turn history upside down. We aim to replace their corporate media and elite "history from above" and dis-information with our own people’s "history from below." We are challenging ourselves, our diverse movements and you to not merely criticize corporate media, but to proactively document and publicize our own history ourselves.

1999 Battle of Seattle (acual footage)

Official Battle in Seattle Movie Trailer

The Other USA - Seattle
Andrew Flood's tour of anarchist collectives and projects in the US:
The other America - MP3 tales from the south, mid-west and west coast

Battle in Seattle - Opening in US today
Battle in Seattle - Opening in US today

real battle in seattle - widening the discussion
real battle in seattle - widening the discussion

Caption: Video Id: _JXPIBsxdk0 Type: Youtube Video
1999 Battle of Seattle

Caption: Video Id: YmQzw-O8eRY Type: Youtube Video
Embedded video Youtube Video


Embedded audio: http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/apr2008/rogue.mp3

author by dunkpublication date Tue Oct 14, 2008 14:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tomorrow night, as part of the first Global Eco Forum (GEF 08), we are going to watch the film in local cinema. We´re still trying to organise to screen Showdown in Seattle before...

Article written about N30 and the film:
N30: The day the political landscape changed forever

“The day the political landscape changed forever“, was how Fritjof Capra referred to events of N30, Tuesday 30th of November 1999, in his book The Hidden Connections.

Showdown in Seattle, 5 days that shook the world
Showdown in Seattle, 5 days that shook the world

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