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Co-opting Occupy Wall Street: “The Dark Knight Rises” vs the 99%

Co-opting Occupy Wall Street: "The Dark Knight Rises" vs the 99%

No disrespect to Christopher Nolan, who I’m sure has his anti-capitalist political leanings in the right place, as revealed in the new trailer for “The Dark Knight Rises,” which has bloggers all over the web salivating about the film’s ominous call for class warfare: “You think this can last?” says the would-be Catwoman. “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne…. when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” But this is Hollywood, my friends, and at its best, the film will communicate a conflicted message; at its worst, it will make us all forget what OWS is really about.

Sure, all that talk over the summer about the film shooting at Occupy Wall Street and the trailer’s not-so-veiled attempt at raising the spectre of income inequality and some sort of revolutionary uprising — not to mention the ironic use of a child singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the destruction of an all-American football game — suggests the film’s political undercurrents.

But remember, Nolan’s 2008 edition “The Dark Knight” offered a muddled political message, arguably heroizing pre-emptive attacks in a post 9/11 world. Maybe Nolan was trying to raise some questions about America’s aggressive policies in its fight against terrrorism, but maybe not. Maybe people just walked away thinking the Joker was really kick-ass.

All this is to say that the movie can’t be trusted, and we must look elsewhere to find the narratives that describe Occupy Wall Street. Hollywood isn’t history, and never has been. And as much as Nolan is an auteur, and I’ll bet he can get away with a lot, the entertainment industry demands a return on its investment, and the new film has to be a capitalistic enterprise.

Frankly, it is the equivalent of the 1%.

So where should we look for a more appropriate rendering of the OWS movement and Time’s Person of the Year, a representation that comes more faithfully from the 99%, if you will?

A new documentary project “99% (The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film)” seems to understand what it takes: Currently embarking on its Kickstarter campaign, the film gathered together 60 filmmakers across the country, with people joining in from Denver, Portland, LA, Boston, Seattle, Philly, DC, Kansas City, Miami, Pittsburgh, Austin, Dallas, Rhode Island, Nashville, Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland.

Among the project’s contributors are Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley (Battle for Brooklyn, Horns and Halos), Ava Duvernay (distributor of independent black films via AFFRM), Aaron Yanes, as supervising editor (Padre Nuestro, Tyson) and producer Tyler Brodie (Another Earth, Terri). I’ve written about the film before in a previous post, and the more I think about it, I’d rather a handful of indie doc filmmakers show me OWS than another confusing Hollywood allegory.

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