Home Arts Freedom to squat

Freedom to squat

by Tarek Akhtar September 18, 2012
Freedom to squat

Cinema Politica is a non-profit community and campus organization that screens independent films dealing with environmental and cultural issues, politics, and social justice at campuses across Canada and abroad. Each Monday, beginning Sept. 17, Cinema Politica will be featuring an independent film that is open to Concordia students and the public.

Cinema Politica’s first feature film of the semester, Squat: The City Belongs to Us, is about a Barcelona-based activist group, Miles de Viviendas (Thousands of Homes), who occupy evicted and boarded up buildings and then turn them into inspired homes.

A “squat” is a group of occupiers that defy their town councils wishes and occupy these boarded up buildings based on their belief that they’re essentially being played. The occupiers don’t just occupy buildings because they need a place to live (though many of them do); they occupy these buildings to show their intolerance to being tossed around by “the same dog with different collars,” as one interviewee said. Once the squatters are in, they clean, make repairs, and gather together in a collective effort to ensure that electricity is restored, and that food and shelter are provided to its occupants.

The film presents us with a situation where the low-income dwellers of Barcelona are being pushed further away from the city by their own town councils. Many of the complexes’ landlords will sell their complexes to the private sector, who then renovate the building only to resell it at a higher rate (which is unattainable for past tenants).

The problem is that the town council needs to approve of the landlords provisions to evict, and does so on what seems like a self-interest basis. Another issue is that many of the evicted homes that are boarded up stay boarded up for long periods of time, thus perfectly good homes sit unused. One of the complexes shown in the film is even owned directly by a member of town council, who, once investigated, was found to be evicting his tenants as a landlord but also approving the provisions of eviction as a member of town council, thus displaying the extent of corruption.

The film implies that the government’s actions in regards to a resolution of this problem, have been less than inspiring for the squatters. In the 1980s some squatting communes were legalized, although their street protests are not, leaving many squatters feeling like they’ve been tolerated and gagged.

This film demonstrated how the bringing together of friends, family, neighbors, and strangers, can be loud enough to be heard. My only criticism with this film is that it didn’t show enough of the movement’s effort to hear their town councils’ invitation to dialogue.

Squat: The City Belongs to Us will be shown on Monday, September 17, at 7 p.m. in room H-110, 1455 de Maisionneuve West. Admission is always free although donations are appreciated.

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