Everyday Rebellion is a documentary about creative forms of nonviolent protest all over the world. We talk about it with Arman and Arash Rihai, who directed it.
How did you get the idea of a film about nonviolent movements?
The initial moment when the project started was when we saw young Iranians like Neda Agha Soltan, the iranian student, getting killed by the Iranian regime in the peaceful protests during the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election in Iran. Neda for example was a mere bypasser on the street and got shot by a sniper. The time after the elections, the so-called green movement pouring into the streets and the fact that the rebellion in Iran was delivered into our living rooms via youtube and social media was the beginning of our project. We were deeply unhappy with the feeling of being powerless during these protests and we wanted to contribute to the Iranian movement for freedom, peace and justice. We wanted to change something. So in the beginning, the project was only about Iran it was called “Iran:Evolution” back then. But soon after we started working on the film, history took place. The Arab Spring, the Indignados, Occupy et cetera. So we had to adapt the concept to the changing reality several times, especially for the funding institutions who wanted to understand why we departed from the original idea. But since we discovered nonviolence as the spirit connecting all these movements, it was plausible. The final film was unlike what we drafted in our concepts. You never know which way the story develops or where your protagonists will lead you. But the spirit was the same.
How did you produce and finance “Everyday Rebellion”?
The film has been financed by National Austrian Film Funding, like most of the other Austrian cinema releases. That of course means tax money, which is how it works here and in many other European countries. The film was developed and produced over the course of 4 years, from idea to the final film. also, the website was made during the last 1,5 years of this production, and after that work on the smartphone app has started, which ended in september of this year. The app will be launched in November. The most difficult time of course was the editing of the film. We had 1400 hours of material of several different interesting movements all around the world and we wanted to make a film that was the essence of that material. We ended up editing for over a year, sometimes 4 people in 4 different editing rooms. The challenge was also to combine the different aesthetics of the material we had, which was of course of different nature. Most of the material we’ve filmed ourselves but we had material shot by others for us, external footage and found footage or crowd-sourced material. The first cut of the film was over 5 hours long and was anything else but a coherent film.
Is there any moment in the film that has particularly inspired and touched you?
Particularly inspiring to us was the courage of all activists. And of course, how they stayed nonviolent, even in the face of brutality and violence. This is what is inspiring. Everybody is creative, everybody can think of nonviolent protest methods. But you’ll have to overcome your fears and your weaker self to stay disciplined and stand your ground in the face of oppressive regimes. There are several ways to do so, of course, as a group, with solidarity, with humor and fun you can overcome your fears. Nothing is impossible to nonviolent resistance. All the systems have been built by mankind, so they can be changed my mankind.
In which countries has the film been screened? What was the reaction of the audience, especially among young people?
The film has been screened in many countries by now. Austria, Germany, Switzerland, obviously, but also Spain, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegowina, Ukraine, Turkey, et cetera. The film will have cinema release in more than 20 countries. So we think the film has an audience, and their reaction until now is great. This is also supported by the fact that we’ve won two audience awards from different festivals already with „Everyday Rebellion“. So generally the audience is supporting the project and we get a lot of really honest and respectful feedback. People seem to appreciate what we’re trying to do here, which of course is also a great recognition of the work of all the activists who appear in our film. Young people really like the film, especially teenagers. You’d think they’re not interested in the subject but we get a lot of response from them as well.
The “revolution of umbrellas” in Hong Kong suggests an undercurrent that occurs somewhere in the world, disappears as a result of a hard repression to engage in basic actions, less visible but always incisive and then re-emerges in a distant place , but with the same characteristics. Do you have the same impression?
Nonviolent resistance is like a seed that grows once it is sowed. Like words growing in the minds of people, resistance has always and will always be alive. The question is only will the movements stick to nonviolence or not? Will they be clever, organized, strategic and have a clear vision of the future? Let’s not forget that some parts of the protest movements have been violent, trying to cause uproar and change by smashing windows and burning things. This will not lead to anything, as history has proven. The idea of nonviolence though is a very ancient and humanist idea, connected deeply to all world religions. And also fought against since centuries, because of the danger that it poses to the leaders and their power. So to be able to continue the struggle, we have to hold tight to nonviolence and continue to find ways to break the chain of violence that has been enslaving humankind for so long. We have to celebrate our successes and change the atmosphere of fear into an optimistic and life-affirming attitude towards the true belief in the power of the civil society, which has been lost along the way.
The film is part of a larger project, made through the website http://www.everydayrebellion.net/ to provide activists around the world a way to spread their activities with video and news that show the creative force of nonviolence . Can you explain it better?
The goal was to make more than only a film, because a film has its restrictions that we know too well. We want the idea of nonviolent protest to be spread in as many countries and minds as possible. So if a film doesn’t find a distributor or won’t be screened in the cinemas you have a problem. So we began the project already with the thought of making a website and maybe an app or a game, trying to push the issue in as many media channels as possible. Also, we wanted the activists to have a place to go online and get inspired, in the best case through videos of nonviolent protest, so that was also one of the thoughts behind it. So then we began with a simple tumblr, gathering videos and contacts to people and also crowdsource some of the films material. Finally, we applied for funding and built this website that emphasizes videos, self produced but also external material from activists or other people. The website and the cross-media aspect of our project were awarded several times, f.e. with the CIVIS Online Media Award or the BEN Award for Best Transmedia Project at 2012’s Biennal of Moving Image. We try to be this hub for creative activists to get inspired and learn new methods of nonviolent protest, but in a playful way and with humor, without being didactic. And it works, we get a lot of great feedback. So be sure to check it out!
What are your plans for the future?
Our second cinema documentary is already in the making and will be finished 2015. The film will be about children and how they see the world, and the children’s creativity as the visceral tool to cope with whatever bothers them. The film will be completely different to Everyday Rebellion. Nothing that you expect after something like that. Also, we have two fiction films in the making. Currently we’re working on the scripts and developing, you’ll hear about it when time comes.