INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The National DECEMBER 16, 2014 - by Chris Newbould
AMIR AMIRANI'S WE ARE MANY IS A FILM ABOUT PEOPLE POWER
The documentary We Are Many traces a fascinating lineage from the birth of a new form of people power during the February 15, 2003, global protests against the United States invasion of Iraq to the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.
Along the way, it highlights the subterfuge and deception used to justify the Iraq war, with interviews from A-list speakers including the late British political heavyweight Tony Benn, the former US chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson, and musicians Brian Eno and Damon Albarn.
Although the protests, in which up to three million people took to the streets of London - with millions more in cities all around the world - were ultimately unsuccessful, the movie posits the theory that the public outcry represented a watershed in the sphere of people power, and strongly influenced the Arab Spring and the more recent UK and US government votes against invading Syria. "I'd been at the demonstration myself, in Berlin, as I'd been at the film festival that week," says the film's director, Amir Amirani. "It was the first time
I'd ever been on a demonstration, and the same was true for a lot of my friends. It drew all sorts of people that weren't 'political'.
"As I was looking into it later I thought, 'It happened in London, it happened in Berlin - where else did it happen?" It was the biggest demonstration in history, and at some point I just realised, that's a film.
"Believe it or not, I did my first interview for the film in 2006, eight years ago, with Tony Benn [who died in March this year]. It's not been a quick process. It took three or four years to fully research it and piece all the bits of the puzzle together, then from 2010 until now it's been a process of fundraising, shooting, editing and finishing the film."
Amirani crafted a documentary production team that includes the producer of The Act Of Killing, the sound recordists from The King's Speech and the colour grader from Terry Gilliam's Brazil. The quality of interviewees in the film is exceptional - it is not every day you see a former US chief of staff admit on camera that, in his opinion, the US government perpetrated a hoax at the UN Security Council and misled the American public, and state that he would gladly stand trial for war crimes himself if that meant his political masters would be in the dock with him.
Amirani says gathering his sources was a painstaking process.
"There was a different route for each person," he says. "Tony Benn was the only one I knew, as I'd interviewed him when I was making a film for the BBC. I had another friend at the BBC who knew Brian Eno's manager. With Wilkerson, I'd been interviewing a lot of American activists by this time and one of them had his email."
The war may be more than ten years old, but the issues remain current, not least with those recent votes against intervention in Syria and George Bush's 2012 in absentia conviction for war crimes by a Malaysian court.
Amirani hopes that the anger that remains all around the world will help to draw crowds to the film when it is released in cinemas next year. He's so confident that he has already declined distribution deals and chosen to distribute it himself and, perhaps appropriately for a film about mass citizen activism, is relying on people power to fill cinemas.
He says: "We'd been talking to distributors in the UK and had a couple of offers, and we started to think, 'Could we do this ourselves? Could we do it better?'
"All of the key people in the film are going to support it, [as are] organisations that are in the film such as the Stop The War Coalition, War On Want, 38 Degrees. Damon Albarn is going to be tweeting and pushing the film to his fans, Brian Eno, the British actor and comedian Omid Djalili - we really feel with all this support there's a ready-made audience there."
Amirani anticipates a UK release in March or April 2015, and we'll be keeping close tabs on its Middle East release.