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Film: We Are Many

  • Jo Siedlecka

From the opening moments, Amir Amirani's We Are Many is a powerful documentary, revisiting the demonstrations against the war on Iraq, that took place in 789 cities - one after another around the globe - across 72 countries, plus Antarctica, on 15 February 2003.

Besides the rousing crowd scenes, there is vintage footage of Blair and Bush together and apart, repeating the story of those weapons of mass destruction.

Then there's testimony and reminiscing from Jeremy Corbyn, Noam Chomsky, Tony Benn, Jesse Jackson, Clare Short, Ken Loach and Tariq Ali, Sir Richard Branson, Susan Sarandon, UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and many more.

It was good to hear again what I think is of the finest moments in Parliamentary history - Robin Cook's resignation speech.

Tony Blair, who can no longer walk down a British street without a bodyguard, turned down an invitation to take part in the film. An aide said he was too busy running his three charities and working for peace in the Middle East. David Blunkett and Lord Falconer wheel out the weary old 'now we know so much more' defence.

Although this film is very well put together - it does not tell the whole story and there are a couple of important omissions I think. One was the fact that a frail Pope John Paul II spoke to both Bush and Blair and begged them not to attack Iraq. Then there was the day our British church leaders walked down Whitehall together to present a letter to No 10 Downing Street; Bruce Kent's interventions - and all those thousands of schoolchildren who played truant to join the marches. But to be fair I'm sure people around the world could point out similar omissions - it was such a massive event.

What the film does convey is the sense of excitement, solidarity and hope we felt at that time. For a very short time it looked as though it was possible to avert war by the fact that there were just so many of us saying no.

In the last few minutes, the director goes off on bit of a tangent, suggesting among other things, that the seeds of the Arab Spring were sown in 2003 by these demonstrations of people power. I'm not sure that is true. Given the desperate, chaotic situation in the Middle East now I think it might have been wiser to stick to the chronology, ending with scenes of the bombing of Baghdad and showing the peace vigils that continued around the world throughout the war rather than try to claim any victories. There are lessons to be learnt, but nothing to celebrate.

Nevertheless, this is a very well made, thought-provoking documentary, on an extremely important subject. I think it would be particularly useful for school and youth groups to see and discuss. 2003 is a long time ago for them. Are most of our politicians listening to us any more now than they were then?

We Are Many goes on general release today.

Click here to see a short clip from the film here:

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