Home Arts The revolution will be televised

The revolution will be televised

by The Concordian November 8, 2011
The revolution will be televised

Wiebo's War depicts the story of a farmer taking on the oil industry.

passivity with smaller movements. This week’s two Cinema Politica offerings present the opposite case, however. Rouge Parole chronicles the resistance movement in Tunisia, while Wiebo’s War tells the story of an Albertan farmer who resorted to violence in order to protect his farm from the oil industry. Both films offer intriguing perspective on resistance. It’s as rare to see such tension from a dozen-strong group as it is to see so little bloodshed from a millions-strong revolution.

Rouge Parole: “Oh the martyr’s mother. Don’t shed a tear. Death is our truth.”

Elyes Baccar’s Rouge Parole provides an extraordinary depth to the experiences of Tunisians during the Jasmine Revolution. Through the course of the film we are presented with the revolution in all of its emotional states: angry, sorrowed, somber, hopeful, jubilant. Much of it is shapeless, wisps stitched together to create a narrative of resistance, and it works brilliantly. We’ve heard the big stories, we’ve seen the group images. Rouge Parole fills in the gaps by giving us the view from within. The film has no need for overarching narration or interviews. It simply lets us see the quotidian rigours of toppling a dictator.
One of the few interviews in the film is with the mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the street vendor whose self-immolation provided the spark for the revolution. Her story of being taken to meet with former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after her son’s death shows a disconnected and slimy regime. She describes sitting in the presidential office being told lie after lie about her son, with no hint of sympathy for her emotional state.
Rouge Parole achieves an incredible sense of immersion. Shot almost entirely from within the crowds, rather than above or behind them, the viewer feels the ebb and flow of mass movements, and the swells of emotion that spur elation and fury. The camaraderie between obvious strangers is a rare treasure in the world, and it’s overwhelming to see it unfold so genuinely throughout the 90-odd minutes Baccar gifts us.
The film is most effective when showing the simple treasures pouring into Tunisia after the fall of the dictator. Young men staring in disbelief at a bookstore and its slew of formerly banned books exemplify the significance of their expanding freedom. It’s an extreme change made all the more impressive by the relative lack of bloodshed involved, and it provides great contrast to the next film on CP’s list next week.

Wiebo’s War: “You shot at them sir?” “Someone here shot at them, yes.”

Wiebo Ludwig, the film’s subject, is somewhat of a paradox. The devout Christian moved his family to rural Alberta for a simpler life closer to God, but was also convicted on five counts of bombing and vandalism. He claimed the oil and gas industry was poisoning his land, his livestock and his family, and when companies refused to shut down their installations, he took matters into his own hand.
In Wiebo’s War, David York searches for the deeper explanation to Ludwig’s ambiguous moral code. The simplicity of life within the Ludwig clan is clearly expressed in the sparse settings the film shows: one large, spartan house and the farm that surrounds it are the sight of all but a few moments of the film.
Wiebo, the eldest Ludwig and the benevolent patriarch, is intelligent and lucid in his speech. But the family has a level of faith that verges on frightening, not as much for its strength as for its isolation. The film expresses this immediately with footage of York trying to convince the Ludwigs that his atheism won’t prevent a truthful telling of the story. While unshakable faith in God is admirable, it becomes less so when it’s accompanied by a distrust of those who lack it.
Regardless of this, Wiebo’s position against oil and gas seems to have serious foundation. After the installation of a facility to harvest sour gas, which is high in hydrogen sulfide, Wiebo’s family started noticing some frightening trends. Sheep on their farm were having miscarriages at an alarming rate, and their water taps could be lit aflame by a nearby match. It all came to a head when one of the Ludwigs suffered the tragedy of a stillbirth. The film shows archival footage of the lifeless infant, and it’s deeply unsettling. Though it cannot be proven to be the fault of the gas industry, it’s an undeniably bizarre series of coincidences. And the consequences would never be tolerated from any non-incorporated group.
The film raises two important questions. Diffused responsibility in business has led to extraordinary leeway in moral issues concerning smaller groups. If the law treats a corporation as a person, why is it not subject to the same code of conduct as a person? With this in mind, when a single person or small group acts with similar disregard, is it fair to prosecute them? It’s certainly an issue for a courtroom, and not a film. But it’s crucial that these questions are raised
in forms like documentary, lest they be swept under the rug.

Wiebo’s War is being screened on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., and Rouge Parole is showing on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. Both screenings take place in H-110. For more information, go to www.cinemapolitica.org/concordia.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment