Last night I went to see Amir Amirani’s feature length documentary, ‘We Are Many’, which centres on 2003’s world-wide demonstrations against the imminent invasion of Iraq, which is officially released today. I had three reasons for going. I met Amir many years ago and his older brother Taghi (also a renowned documentary director) is an old friend. I was unable to go on the massive march, because my mother had died suddenly just three days before. My youngest brother, Richard, went on the family’s behalf and I remember my dad talking about ‘warmongers’ at Mum’s funeral, which took place the day before the invasion.
Thirdly, I’m about to start writing the next novel in my Bone and Cane sequence, which will be about the parliament during which the invasion took place (this will be the 4th in the sequence: news on the third soon). ‘We Are Many’ is a remarkable achievement, a labour of love that took its director many years to make. It’s a very ambitious, entirely absorbing hundred minute movie that starts with 9/11, focuses on the massive demonstrations (so many of them), then goes into the aftermath and consequences of the demonstrations and the illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq, going on to its effects on the Arab spring and the vote not to send troops to Syria. Amir, clearly a sensitive, endearing interviewer, gets revealing comments from Conan Powell’s right hand man to Tony Benn, for whom this film also forms a fitting epitaph. Good to see lots of comments from one of our best political writers, John le Carré, along with many others including Mark Rylance, Damon Albarn and David Blunkett, the only cabinet minister MP who agreed to appear.
It’s a serious movie, but there are plenty of laughs. For some reason, it was showing in a well attended Cineworld, rather than our local Arts cinema, Broadway, and something happened that I’d never seen there before. There was not one, but two spontaneous rounds of applause during the film (and two at the end, as well). The first came for Robin Cook’s resignation speech in the house, a very moving scene. The second… well, I won’t spoil it for you, but it involved Donald Rumsfeld.
‘We Are Many’ is a terrific movie with important lessons for everyone. A colleague who teaches International Relations at NTU told me during the long wait afterwards (Cineworld forgot to show the discussion stream until my partner went and reminded them!) that he plans to use it with his students as soon as it’s available. Even the Daily Bloody Mail loves it. Yet it doesn’t doesn’t currently have national distribution. Last night’s Curzon screening streamed to seventy cinemas was a one-off. So ask your local cinema to show it, ask the BBC when they plan to buy and show the film, spread the word and, if you get the chance, don’t miss it. Congratulations to Amir and everyone involved in its making.
War – Young Fathers, who play the Rescue Rooms next Tuesday.