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23rd Jun 2015

We Are Many: The most thrilling, vital and rousing film of the year

Nooruddean Choudry

We Are Many tells the story of the largest demonstration in human history, when 30 million people took to the streets on February 15, 2003 to say no to war in Iraq.

It was a world event of such unprecedented magnitude that those of us who were there or who witnessed it couldn’t possibly comprehend exactly what was happening and how it would change the political landscape forever.

Some time was needed to properly contextualise the happening and fathom what the actual f**k. That time has now passed and this film has been made – and it’s absolutely f**king outstanding.

We Are Many isn’t merely a documentary. It doesn’t simply chronicle what happened. It feels like a continuation of that momentous day in February 2003. Watching it takes you back to those vital, angry, passionate times and stirs you into feeling – and wanting to feel – that way again.

There are so many traps that this film could have fallen into, but it evades them with style and verve. It doesn’t feel preachy or excessively opinionated, and neither does it descend into back-slapping and self-congratulatory ‘Oh weren’t we great’ territory.

Director Amir Amirani deserves all sorts of praise for taking what is essentially archive footage, talking heads and slick graphics and turning them into a heart-swelling, gut-wrenching thriller. Few films of any kind, never mind documentaries, keep the viewer gripped in such a way.

In some ways it almost plays like a horror movie. You know what’s coming – we ultimately go to war. But as the countdown begins to inevitable doom, you see good people doing remarkable things and you will them to defy reality and succeed.

The journey from grassroots campaign to global movement is truly awe-inspiring. There are so many things in the world that make you despair for humankind and convince you that we’re all bastards. This film reminds you we’re not. It makes you feel proud.

Yet in spite of people of every creed, colour and religion standing as one and demanding ‘no’, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary, the axis of incredulity that was George W. Bush and Tony Blair took us to war.

The film addresses this fact with brutal panache. There is a scene that juxtaposes Bush making light of the search for WMDs with the cruel suffering of Iraqi civilians that is sickeningly effective. It is filmmaking of the highest order.

The apparent failure of the peace movement is deflating. The documentary reaches a premature crescendo and then pulls the rug from under you. It has to – that’s what happened. But then it builds you back up with a compelling argument for hope.

You watch how “whisky-drinking infidels” in the West inspired those at the forefront of the Arab Spring to galvanise in righteous revolt, and it inspires you once more. The final half-hour is a rousing epilogue focused on a tangible legacy.

We Are Many deserves all the hype possible. It demands a second life via DVD and digital release. If we sound evangelical, it’s because it’s that good. Watch it and you’ll feel the same.

Just like the events of 2003, We Are Many is an inspiration and reminds you that we’re f**king amazing when we want to be.

Many thanks to Executive Producer Omid Djalili for inviting JOE to a screening of his superb documentary.