99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film: Sundance Review

99% - The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film

U.S.A. (Directors: Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read, Nina Kristic)

The Occupy movement erupted in September 2011, propelling economic inequality into the spotlight. In an unprecedented collaboration, filmmakers across America tell its story, digging into big picture issues as organizers, analysts, participants and critics reveal how it happened and why.

Sympathetic assemblage of clips and opinions from the various Occupy movements.

Co-directors Audrey Ewell, Aaron Attes, Lucian Read and Nina Krstic assemble a film featuring varying opinions on the Occupy movements.

PARK CITY -- The whole world won’t be watching this documentary, which glorifies the various Occupy movements. Here at left-leaning Sundance, this populist puff was akin to preaching to the choir. Similarly, it is most likely to find its most hospitable venues in ye olde radical spots of the ‘60s: Berkeley, Madison, Ann Arbor, et al.

In entertainment-ese, the Occupy movement recalls the memorable rant in Network: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”  In this case, citizens took to the streets, or mainly the parks, initially to protest the astronomical greediness of Wall Street. Alas, there’s not much substance to their protests or articulation of the source of the problem.

One recalls the vastly superior documentary Inside Job, which delineated the nefarious insider connections between Harvard Business School, the big brokerage firms and federal regulatory agencies. This one is, basically, a neo-’68 bleating of “power to the people.”

Four directors and six co-directors compiled this documentary, which bespeaks the adage that too many cooks spoil the soup. Aesthetically, 99% follows a predictable, redundant course: It is basically talking-heads filmmaking, as a slew of left-leaning intellectuals detail the economic/societal problems, transitioned by the noisy slew of indistinguishable Occupy protests.  

As expected, there are some charismatic participants on the front-lines, including a personable albeit naive howler in a Davy Crockett/Elmer Fudd-combo hat who rants on with captivating ignorance, but still manages to get his “fair share of abuse.”  

The visual images are manipulative and simplistic; like the verbal ranting, they are devoid of depth.  Recurring shots of formations of cops imply the Chicago ’68 brutality of Mayor Daley’s goons or the loathsome storm troopers of Bull Connor.

Still, in its scattergun assault on things that are wrong, 99% wings some deserving ogres, such as the higher-education racket. The film criticizes the slimy for-profit schools and greedy public learning institutions that induce students to their specious programs, which do nothing for the students but push them into deep debt.

Directors: Audrey Ewell, Aaron Attes, Lucian Read, Nina Krstic
Co-directors: Katie Teague,  Peter Leeman,Kyle Kehrwald, Aric Grutnick, Abby Martin, Doree Simon
No rating,  92 minutes