Picture a group of militant anti-war activists occupying the office of your local recruitment centre. They're arrested and taken away. Chances are, the immediate image in your mind is not that of older adults, especially older women. This stereotypical image is precisely what the Raging Grannies, are setting out to challenge.
The Raging Grannies is a form of franchise activism (separate autonomous groups or chapters exist in various cities) that aims to celebrate the rabble-rousing force of senior women. Notable for taking traditional folk songs and changing the words to make them protest tunes, the Raging Grannies are often seen performing at rallies and marches. Beyond that, few people know much about or pay close attention to the cultural impact of the Raging Grannies.
Coming the last week of June to the Raging Grannies Unconvention in Montreal, the film Granny Power sets out to explore the lives of various Raging Grannies all over North America. Producer Jocelyne Clarke spoke with me to help bring to light the eclectic and eccentric work of culture-jamming activism and all kinds of trouble that the Raging Grannies are getting up to.
According to Clarke, the film is a ten year project and has faced the challenge of acquiring funding. "It's harder and harder to fund documentaries, and the most sensational/sexy ones -- sure to garner audience -- are given priority."
In addition to the constant flow of cuts to CBC and public arts, the profit-driven model of sensational media fails to see the inspiring nature of films such as this. And really, what is more sensational than over a dozen women, well into their 70s and 80s, being arrested at an action and fighting to have the charges dropped?
An important part of the film is its representation of the women as individuals with agency. The camera opens the doors to the women's individual worlds, what inspires them to take action, what hopes they have for young people getting involved and the unique purpose and mission that activism brings to them.
In contrast to the everyday ageist and sexist representations of older women that imply they are past their prime, that they are set in their ways, that they are seeking ways to avoid aging, the film allows viewers to recognize the wisdom, confidence and determination inherent in these women's struggle for social justice.
And this wisdom lends itself to the group's morale, sometimes lacking in youth activism. That is, the perseverance and understanding of the larger picture, which in the film, seems to steer the women away from the burn-out and mental fatigue that plagues many of us.
When asked what is most inspiring about the film, Clarke responded that it is the nature of their eternal optimism and their strong bond to one another. They never take themselves too seriously, they have fun and they pay little attention to the fact that they seldom hit the right note in song.
If you are in Montreal, there is a premiere screening of the film at the UnConvention 2014 at McGill New Residence in downtown Montreal, over the last week of June 25- 28. Space is limited, so if you would like to attend, please contact Jocelyne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in supporting the film, stay tuned for the launch of their Indiegogo campaign on June 1.