Film Review: We Are the Giant
We Are the Giant
Directed by Greg Barker
Music Box Films
Greg Barker’s documentary about the Arab Spring has a subtle conceit at its heart. It follows three different stories of activists: In the first, a young, Libyan-American former Boy Scout joins the revolt against the Gaddafi regime, while his father tries (and fails) to convince him to come home to the U.S.; in the second story, two men try to organize a nonviolent resistance to the Assad regime in Syria, only to find that the government’s ghastly retaliation results in the deaths of fellow activists and plunges the country into a brutal civil war; in the third, two sisters from Bahrain join their human rights activist father in protesting that country’s monarchist regime. Barker takes these three disparate stories from three different countries—each of which currently has a different outcome politically—and tries to find common threads, showing how the attempt at nonviolent resistance is constantly in conflict with the immediate needs of revolution. Barker also creates animated interstitials made up of historical footage and famous quotes about revolution from people like Lenin, Che Guevara, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Stalin, and others.
It shouldn’t work, but it does. True, in a lot of these cases nonviolent resistance doesn’t seem to have succeeded. But Barker succeeds in creating a living, breathing thing: a film whose different elements are in constant conversation with each other, quite appropriate for a story whose overall outcome is far from certain yet. (Where will the Arab Spring be five years from now? Ten years?) And his film is full of indelible, heartbreaking images from the frontlines, as protesters are shot by police, entire city blocks are destroyed by rocket fire, and tanks make their way through completely devastated cities. Nonviolence isn’t easy, the film seems to say—but sometimes its failure is just as important as its successes.