Nearly two years after the first Occupy Wall Street protesters set up camp in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, there are few signs that a worldwide protest movement started here. The sleeping bags and makeshift kitchens are long gone, and the investment bankers that had to skirt the masses to get into their offices now enjoy lunch in the park.
But the debate over Occupy Wall Street’s legacy is very much alive.
In New York, the city where the movement took off, there’s currently a mayor’s race where issues of inequality first raised by OWS are being hotly debated. The current frontrunner in the Democratic primary, Bill de Blasio, is running on the campaign slogan “New York is a tale of two cities.”
And now a new documentary about the movement, 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, is sure to spark even more questions on what Occupy means two years later.
“Was it just a learning experience or something more?” asks Audrey Ewell, one of the filmmakers. “Societal change can be abstract. Sometimes it’s visible, and sometimes it’s not.”
The film opens with a speech by President Obama, decrying inequality as “the defining issue of our time,” foreshadowing his recent declaration that he will dedicate the rest of his presidency to closing the growing gap between rich and poor.
The film, which debuted at Sundance and is filled with previously unreleased footage from Occupy protests around the country, premieres in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.
99% shows a highly varied account of what happened during the heady months of late 2011, culling footage from over 100 people, professionals and amateurs, who took video of Occupy from New York to Oakland and points in between.
The result is a comprehensive look at Occupy from start to sort-of finish, bracketed by the first days when a few people camped out in Zuccotti Park to a dystopian finale showing the last protesters being removed from the park on New Year’s Eve.
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