x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Battle in Seattle

Battle in Seattle tells the story of the 1999 protests against the WTO Ministerial Conference but fails to provide adequate context.

Ten years after protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Conference, questions over their effectiveness remain. In this 2007 film, the director Stuart Townsend doesn't attempt to answer those questions, and instead tells the story of the protests through seven individuals' experiences. With issues ranging from hunger, commercialisation, environmental degradation and exploitation, protesters descended on the city by the thousands in the days leading up to the conference. The majority intended to express their frustration at being locked out of decision making, but as the numbers of protesters rose, the roads leading to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center were blocked, preventing delegates from reaching the conference. Protests escalated when a group of anarchists began vandalising stores such as Gap and Starbucks, causing fighting with other protesters and clashes with police. Townsend succeeds in portraying the diversity of agendas and attitudes among protesters as well as the difficult decisions faced by Seattle's mayor, played by Ray Liotta. But the film falls short in providing adequate context for the protests. Woody Harrelson gives the strongest performance, playing a conflicted police officer whose initial sympathy for the protesters is reversed when police mistake his pregnant wife for a demonstrator.