Director: Greg Barker
Watch We Are the Giant online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV Store / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / Google Play
“There are decades where nothing happens. And there are weeks where decades happen.” – Lenin
Conflict is often summed up in sound bites or statistics. While they can convey some of the scale of history, though, they miss a crucial element: humanity. We Are the Giant brings it back with a towering sense of perspective.
The documentary follows the Arab Spring through events in three different countries, a ground-level account of an uprising mostly seen overseas as a clip on the news or a tweet. While social media has given citizens a voice of protest – and a chance to communicate their situation to the wider world – it also means that hugely significant events can blend into the background stream of Western lives.
Greg Barker’s film isn’t about to blend into the background of anything. The director introduces us to different stories around the world. In Libya, we meet Osam Muhannad, an American Libyan with a son precious to him. In Syria, we are taken under the charismatic wing of Motaz and Ghassan.
“What is the difference between us?” Motaz says a demonstration. “We are all Muslims.”
It’s that unifying aspect of an uprising that worked so well in The Square, Jehane Noujaim’s similar documentary about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Shot on handhelds with a rousing immediacy, it swept you along in the hopeful hordes.
An excellent companion piece to the Oscar-nominee, We Are the Giant singles out people instead to expose the moral challenges of standing up for what they believe – and the consequences of what happens when they do. A shot of one blogger carrying out a hunger strike online is powerful – but a cut away to their friend, concerned about their health, reinforces the personal stakes of the battle.
Cut together efficiently in a rapid 90 minutes, the vox pops are interspersed with hugely effective crowd sequences. We witness authorities open fire on civilians first hand – something that feels even more dangerous thanks to the intimate scenes preceding it.
That balance between personal and political is excellently judged by the director, who asks big questions on a small scale.
“As long as a movement remains non-violent, the power is inside the country,” points out Motaz. “He who arms you, he is the one who holds the power.”
Statistics have rarely seemed so irrelevant.
We Are the Giant is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.49 monthly subscription.
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