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Occupy Love: The story of an idea whose time has come

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Photo: Tom Radenz

The concluding chapter in Canadian filmmaker Velcrow Ripper's "Fierce Love" trilogy, Occupy Love -- which premiered this week at the Vancouver International Film Festival -- is a testament to a revolution as yet unfinished, and a plea not to succumb to hate, and instead place love at the centre of our struggles for a better world.

Although the film boasts an impressive collection of talking heads (including Naomi Klein, Judy Rebick, Bill McKibben and Jeremy Rifkin), Ripper and producers Ian MacKenzie and Nova Ami never let the film get bogged down by them. Instead, they lean heavily on ground level activists -- from the Egyptian Spring to Occupy to the climate justice movement -- to tell their own stories.

These are contextualized and framed by stunning visuals captured across several continents. In fact, it deserves to be restated: visually, this film is breathtaking. The cinematography and editing place a premium on beauty, and the viewer is effortlessly drawn along from arresting image to captivating idea without a moment's lull to contemplate one's dinner menu.

The film posits that the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, the climate justice and Indigenous movements, the Indignados in Spain and many others are not isolated, but rather part of a single, global movement. At a time of profound crisis, when drastic change is needed to prevent our very extinction as a species, hope lies in our collective power, and great love for each other.

As New Agey as that may sound, I do believe that all movements are rooted in love. Our love for each other, and concern for the welfare of strangers. Love is the counterpoint to the greed and avarice of modern society, and if we are to succeed in toppling this broken system before it is too late, we will do it through love and solidarity.

For me, one of the most arresting moments came when Ripper poses the film's central question -- could our current crisis become the world's greatest love story? -- to Indigenous environmental activist Clayton Thomas-Mueller. He laughs, and pulls down his shirt to reveal a tatoo which reads "love is the movement."

The importance of love and community to a succesful social movement became abundantly clear to me over the past year in Quebec, and although I retain reservations about any analysis which does not recognize that our oppressive system is protected by people who must be defeated, not reasoned with, I agree with the film's central thesis. Allowing our anger to turn to hate is no way to change the world.

Speaking of Quebec, my one regret leaving the theatre was that the largest social movement in Canadian history failed to make more than a fleeting appearance in the film. Ripper joked that history just kept happening, and despite his repeated entreaties, refused to stand still for a moment. While I understand that it is impossible to make a film without leaving some things by the wayside, I think Occupy Love would have been far stronger had it included what I consider to be such a large piece of the story it seeks to tell.

That minor quibble aside, I believe Occupy Love is a brilliant film. In any movement we need artists to tell our stories. With this film, Ripper and his team have done so with remarkable skill and creativity.

It is a beautiful, at times breathtaking, at times deeply moving, portrait of our movements and some of the people who populate them. The screening I attended was sold out, and the full house clapped throughout the entire final credits. Clearly this is a film which engages its audience, and moves them deeply. No wonder then that Ripper describes the film as the best thing he's ever done.

Visually stunning, politically incendiary, audaciously inspiring. Occupy Love is a masterpiece.

I hope you see it, and when you do, I hope it provokes discussion about the relative merits of love and hate within our movement. It is a conversation worth having, and a film worth seeing.

Occupy Love will be screening again in Vancouver on October 10, in Toronto on October 13, and in Montreal on November 10 or 11. Details, and more screenings as they are added, can be found at occupylove.org

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