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New documentary 'The Occupiers' focuses on camp community from start to eviction

Posted by Alex Pearlman  February 29, 2012 05:43 PM

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the occupiers film.jpgBy Danielle Messler

Perhaps the most iconic word of the past year has been “protest.” The flurry of social movements began with the Arab Spring, which culminated in the liberation of several countries from repressive regimes. Time magazine recognized this year of rebellion by naming the unnamed protester as its person of the year.

America’s own uprising, christened “Occupy Wall Street,” began in September in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, and the movement quickly spread to hundreds of locations throughout the world, from the landmark St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to multiple cities in Australia. Occupy reached Boston in late September, when protesters declared Dewey Square their headquarters and new home. As with most Occupy camps, the Boston encampment did not come without controversies and eviction notices, and police eventually shut it down in December.

The Occupiers, premiering tomorrow morning at Emerson College’s Bill Bordy Theatre, captures the Occupy Boston movement from its impassioned beginning to its controversial eviction. Co-directors John Forrester and Joseph Leahy spent months filming -- and even occasionally sleeping -- in Dewey Square.

“For me, it was one of the most fascinating things I’ve seen come out of our generation,” Forrester said. “[Filming at the camp] was exciting -- frightening at times -- but it was definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

The filming process was not without its challenges, the least of which was remaining objective. “I’m unemployed, so a lot of those issues hit home with me,” Forrester said. “That being said, we were there as non-participants, and that was very clear to both of us.”

Impressively, The Occupiers captures the community of Occupy Boston rather than focusing on the politics behind it. Although Forrester said he sympathized with the movement, he also recognized the importance of staying neutral while still capturing the unique dynamic of the encampment.

“People there really did come from varied socioeconomic backgrounds; there were varied political beliefs,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy thing for that to happen. People had to make compromises [and] step out of their comfort zones, myself included.”

Some of the most memorable moments happened during the camp’s first eviction in October, which Forrester said the police handled “pretty well.” Compared to other cities like Oakland, both Occupy Boston evictions were relatively respectful, which Forrester attributed to an understanding by the police that “Boston is a center of intellectual ideas and, to a degree, activism, too,” he said. “I think they understood that Boston sort of became a major focal point of the Occupy movement.”

The Occupiers conveys the most prevalent social movement of our generation from the perspective of its community, truly expressing what it was like to live in the encampment and participate in the movement. The film provides an exclusive window into the inner workings of Occupy Boston and the people behind it, focusing especially on the ties formed within the Occupy community.

“All these people did come together to put their differences aside to do something for the common good,” Forrester said -- something he believes that, in an increasingly polarized election year, “a lot of Americans should learn from…regardless of their politics.”

Editor's Note: Because of his personal relationship with TNGG's editor-in-chief, we debated running a story about John Forrester and 'The Occupiers.' However, as a site that regularly showcases the awesome stuff that young people are doing, we felt it would be unfair not to write about this documentary and the 20-somethings behind it. Our editor-in-chief did not report any of the information in or edit this post.

About Danielle -- I am a 20-something-year-old New England native that is curious about the world around me. I love to travel and have spent time living in Udaipur, India, and London, England, and I plan to call many other places home.

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This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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