Over a decade after the unprecedented global protests against the war in Iraq, Amir Amirani captures the spirit and momentum of the people opposing war, on and after the 15th February 2003. Using archive clips and interviews, We Are Many was screened in 90 cinemas across the UK on the 21st May, followed by a live Q&A time presented by Jon Snow.
The feature length documentary is made up of archive clips, and interviews with political activists, celebrity protesters, and politicians. John Le Carre, the famous spy novelist of Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy and Smiley’s People, spoke of his experience attending the London demonstration on the 15th February, along with his family and over 1.5 million people. David Blunkett about his support for the war in Iraq, whilst Tony Benn delivered powerful speeches against.
The chief weapons inspector at the United Nations, Hans Blix, was on the streets when the anti-war protests broke out in New York, whilst Tom Goodrich, a founding member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, spoke of his experience being on the same protest, even though he was on active duty at that time. A global movement of over 35 million people were out on the streets in 789 cities worldwide, including 70 workers protesting in Antarctica. Many people at the time said there were 2 superpowers, the United States and world public opinion.
Footage covered activists in Australia, who mounted the Sydney Opera House, painting ‘NO WAR’ in red across the side of the building and Robin Cook’s resignation speech, in protest at the imminent war. How Labour Party whips won over the unconvinced MPs to finally go to war and contemporary and historical footage of the musician Damon Albarn’s experience of the anti-war movement.
The film identified and explored the links between the anti-war movement and how it built the confidence of workers in Egypt, feeding into strike action across the country, and gradually leading to the overthrow of the Mubarak regime in 2011. This analysis sought to dispel some of the myths about the Arab revolution in Egypt being an internet revolution. When the war exploded in Iraq, thousands of people poured into Tahir square, leading to ongoing political struggle in the region.
Where I felt We Are Many was weak, was in relation to its analysis of contemporary war in the Middle East. It gave the impression that the success of mobilisations on the streets in 2003, made the government think twice about going to war with Syria in 2013. Yet this was framed in a way that was in and of itself a major victory, on the basis that western imperialist interests were defeated. This failed to show the ongoing struggle of the people of Syria fighting a tyrannical regime and Islamic extremists.
Following the film, Jon Snow introduced the panel of speakers, for a Q&A. The panel consisted of Amir Amirani, musician Damon Albarn, Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition, executive producer and comedian Omid Djalili, actor Greg Wise and Professor of International law at UCL Philippe Sands QC.
We heard that the London demonstration on the 15th February 2003 was the 3rd largest mobilisation of people, after Spain and Italy. That people continue to campaign and protest against austerity and the spirit must be carried forward. Wise talked about mobilising the same people, using the same spirit. That there is an appetite for civil disobedience; the actions of the state are immoral and we have to act against it. That the war in Iraq was illegal, that it was not only wrong but it was a crime of aggression and contrary to international law. Activists in Antarctica lost their jobs or were reprimanded for coming out against the war.
Snow spoke about going out to Iraq with the UN weapons inspector team and opined how he feels about how the west produces extremism. He also reflected on his time in Iran; witnessing the damage sanctions are doing to ordinary people, who are unable to access Cancer medication, which has led to a black market opening up in Turkey.
Questions came in via Twitter from Southampton and Oxford, asking about organised protest and social media. German responded by saying that everyone films protests nowadays and uploads the footage on to social media, whereas the producers of We Are Many relied on archived footage from the BBC. Another asked how the producers will get the film out on a mass release platform, yet this largely went unanswered. Amirani responded by talking about why he felt the film was necessary. He felt that many were disillusioned after failing to stop the war in Iraq, so he wanted to show how the global mobilisations against the war in Iraq were not a waste of time and how the movement fed into current global struggles.
We Are Many is an important documentary, capturing the spirit of 2003, and the human capacity and potential to demand change. The many are opposed to war, and the killing and displacement of innocent people. But we cannot pick and choose our tyrants like our global capitalist governments do. We must always remain firmly on the side of the people. To check out screenings of We Are Many, visit their website: http://wearemany.com/cinemas/
Twitter: #wearemany @wearemanymovie
Written by Kat Burdon-Manley