occupy love: you can’t evict an idea (film review)

Occupy Love begins with a question: How can our current crisis become a love story?

Director Velcrow Ripper posed this question to a host of activists, authors, rebels and world changers, including climate activist Bill McKibben, author bell hooks, “sacred economist” Charles Eisenstein, zen teacher Roshi Joan Halifax, biologist Rupert Sheldrake, indigenous leader Clayton Thomas Mueller, and a whole lot of Occupy organizers, artists and on-the-ground protestors.

The responses vary. Social activist and author Judy Rebick scoffed “Love?!?” and laughed. Later in the film, she confesses to thinking it was a stupid question. It is a brave, rather naïve question – but one of the strengths of the film is that the question doesn’t get answered.

These interviews with thought leaders put forward views on not only love, but global transformation, healing, interdependence and the future of the planet. While their voices are given weight, they’re interspersed with on-the-street footage, tied together by poetic scenes of murmuration of starlings. The murmuration is a powerful illustration of interdependence, as the individual birds are part of a collective whole, working together to fight predators.

It’s clear that this metaphor is calling out to us to cooperate, collaborate and work as a whole, reminding us that a crisis can be transformed into a vision, despair can become hope, and every action, no matter how small, makes a difference.

As the title suggests, the North American Occupy movement plays a central role in the film, which is part documentary, part poem, part spiritual investigation. Although Ripper was there on the first day of OWS, the film is more than a linear documentary of the movement. Ripper also takes us to revolution hot spots around the globe such as Tahir Square, Spain and Keystone pipeline demonstrations in Washington DC, illuminating the connections and commonalities of these movements.

The film is loaded with familiar signifiers of social movements: demonstrations, placards, streets filled with chanting protestors. We also see newer signifiers: the human microphone, working groups, community kitchens and creative expressions of dissent. Occupy Love is filmed with a sense of participation – Ripper is on the ground, the camera work is handheld. He is not an impartial observer, documenting the movement. Instead, he is present and involved.

Ripper has co-created a love story for the planet in a time of uncertainty. It’s not a conventional boy-meets-girl-and-runs-off-into-the-sunset kind of love story. At the end of the film, he reflects that he started out looking for the perfect love story but what he found was “a messy, imperfect and human love.”

Judy Rebick also closes with a more hopeful message than her initial skepticism. She tells us that social movements move like waves and slowly change the landscape. It’s not going to be easy, she says.

The film reflects the nature of these movements, offering no definitive answer or solution – rather, it’s an opportunity to pause, reflect. It’s part of the creation of a new story, one that is a counterwave to the dominant story of hate, greed, acquisition and oppression.

At the heart of the film is the message that the ecological, economic and cultural crisis is deepening our love. The challenge is to express our love in more powerful and visionary ways.

There is a global shift happening. Occupy Love is a heart opening and beautiful ode to this shift, a reminder that the old paradigms are no longer working. In this time of uncertainty and unbalance our greatest weapon is love – if we have the courage to love with abandon. Ripper clearly believes we can do this.

Occupy Love plays in Montreal on November 10 and 11 as part of RIDM. A free screening of the film, organized by Occupy Montreal, takes place on November 14.

US and International screenings are set for early 2013.