It might be some years old, but we think that our 30-minute video, Nonviolence for a Change, remains relevant. It can still stimulate good discussion, so why not hold a screening for your group? We’ve produced guidance notes to make this easy.
Why we made it (twice)
Let’s go back to the year 2000. Turning the Tide had attracted both admiration and notoriety for working with Trident Ploughshares, a mass direct action project to disable and disrupt the UK’s nuclear weapons system. We were also working with Reclaim the Streets, G7/G20/WTO resisters and community and activist groups around the country. Arrestable nonviolent action was seen by some, who might otherwise be sympathetic, as highly contentious.
It was becoming clear to us that we needed to explain our work to a wider audience in a way that could stimulate deeper thinking about nonviolent direct action as a tool of social change. So we called our good friends Zoe and Hugh, won some funding, and made a video.
This is a very remarkable film that should be shown in all schools and form the basis of discussions wherever people meet to talk about our future.
Tony Benn, national treasure
It sold out very quickly. We made more copies and they sold out too. It attracted good reviews and won an award at the Earth Vision Film Festival in Santa Cruz. Activists in Ramallah, Cape Town and Tel Aviv used the video. Screenings were held across Europe, in Israel, Palestine, Burma, Thailand, New Zealand, South Asia and North America. And it was part of university Peace courses in Japan and Austria.
It felt like we were playing a small part in shifting mainstream opinion to one more accepting of nonviolent direct action and encouraging deeper thinking about civilian power for change.
A very beautifully made film, inspiring and informative.
George Monbiot, journalist
We wanted it to have a long shelf life, but technology was changing, grassroots activism was developing, and the context for social change activism was shifting. And so we updated the video to look at the civil liberty questions surrounding the suppression of protest through anti-terrorism legislation in the wake of 9/11, and how activists were responding to decreasing legal space. We also wanted to catch up on what had happened with main characters from the original video. How had they changed? What were their views now?
Zoe and Hugh did us proud again. The revised version was released in 2011 and the DVDs once again quickly sold out. Now, it can only be viewed online. We’re not thinking about making another one right now, but we hope you’ll agree that there is still plenty in the video that rings true today.
We have to be prepared for peaceful direct action.
Caroline Lucas, Green MP
Why are we sharing this all these years later?
Here’s why we think the film can still be used today:
- Direct action is still an effective tactic, and more widely accepted. But what are the issues around it now?
- Surveillance technology is advancing, and the powers that be are keen to gain control of the internet. And so is the ability of civil society to use it to hold authorities to account.
- Other challenges to civil liberties are increasing, for example Prevent, the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, UK moves to reject European human rights legislation, police infiltration of progressive activist groups, a general shift to controlling and oppressive politics.
- Forms of activism that include building the alternative, eg Grow Heathrow, Transition Towns, that demonstrate alternative solutions to problems.
- Increasing focus on creativity in direct action.
- The issues and dilemmas from exploring violence and nonviolence remain the same.
How you can use it in your social change work
Why not host a film screening with your local community group, or with a campaigning group that you are involved in? You can view the video online or download a copy. We have produced a video user guide to help you show it.
Without dissent, without protest, democracy will stultify, democracy will die.
Shami Chakrabarti, member of the House of Lords and former Director of Liberty
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