A new documentary was released in selected cinemas last week, and on Netflix from today. Called Rebellion, it tells the inside story of Extinction Rebellion, how it got started, the thought processes behind it, and its current relevance. Here’s the trailer:
Directed by first-time film-makers Maia Kenworthy and Elena Sánchez Bellot, this is all about access. They’re clearly trusted enough as documentarians for the cameras to be in key meetings, letting them roll even when tensions boil. And so we see planning meetings and turning points, both positive and negative.
There’s a small handful of leading figures, including Gail Bradbrook, Roger Hallam and his daughter Savannah, who is pulling in a slightly different direction. Farhana Yamin is perhaps the most sympathetic presence in the film, as a seasoned veteran of 22 COP conferences who has had enough, and is well outside of her comfort zone as she takes direct action for the first time.
The film is honest about the movement’s failings – how it failed to build coalitions early enough, or bring in a greater diversity of voices. It burned goodwill over tactical errors from more fanatical elements, and the film leaves the movement in a place of uncertainty as the laws change to limit the right to protest. I’m guessing the documentary was in production by the time the pandemic hit, as there’s no mention of it here and its impact on XR, so the film doesn’t take us up to the current moment. But what it does do is give us an inside look at how it came about, what it achieved, and the pressures that civil disobedience puts on governments, movements and individuals.
Catch it if you can, especially as the next round of XR actions begins on the 9th of April and you’re invited.