The Occupy movement persists in fits and stutters around the globe, and though its inability (stateside at least) to resolve internal issues around race, class, and gender shouldn’t be ignored, neither should its successes. One of those is the Bay Area’s 2012 Occupy the Farm movement.
In the East Bay town of Albany, students, faculty, and everyday people took over the Gill Tract, property of UC Berkeley, to protest (and hopefully thwart) the administration’s plans to turn the land over to private interests — including Whole Foods. While sympathetic with Occupy, director Todd Darling allows the other side to have their say without reducing them to caricatured villainy. (Their own demeanors and hypocrisy pretty much cover that.) The film is riveting from the start, with its ragtag multiculti heroines and heroes meshing multiple identity markers (activist, academic, refurbished hippie), often within individual selves.
And they do so while dropping crucial historical and analytical information in support of their case. Brutal confrontations with cops and last-minute political maneuvering by government officials make the film a nail-biting experience even for those who know the outcome. But while Occupy the Farm ends on a happy note, it’s almost impossible to come away from the film feeling anything but unease.
It illustrates the staggering extent to which corporate interests dictate policy and shape scientific research (who it is for, where it is applied). That’s the grim dark cloud hovering over this Occupy victory lap.