Anarchists in Film festival continues

Sacco and Vanzetti”
Tonight – 7 p.m.
“Land and Freedom (Tierra y Libertad)”
May 11, 7 p.m.
“I.F. Stone Weekly” w/ The Internationale
May 12, 7 p.m.
All at the Guild Theater

The Northwest Film Center continues its Anarchists in Film festival this weekend with four films, each shedding light upon the often misunderstood movement. To many the idea of an international anarchist movement seems paradoxical, but through film the festival hopes to contextualize a varied and fascinating movement.

The uprising surrounding Seattle’s World Trade Organization meetings in 2000 served as the introduction of many to the anarchist movement. But the mainstream media focused upon and demonized one faction of a rich whole. Beyond the black hoods and property damage lies a body of writing encompassing history, politics and philosophy that forms the belief system of the broad intellectual movement.

Despite the ease of sensationalizing “direct action” components of the movement, to many, anarchism is a belief system concerned with honoring individual choice while respecting all. But the many ideas and texts cited by such a free thinking movement make it hard to say exactly what anarchism can or should mean. This festival may bring to light some aspects.

“Sacco and Vanzetti,” a 1971 film by Giulano Montaldo, explores the events leading to the execution of two wrongly accused Italian immigrants. The armed robbery and murder convictions of these two men represent one of the most politically motivated – and least substantial – prosecutions in U.S. history.

Ultimately what these men were really found guilty of were fleeting ties to Italian anarchists and an inability to speak perfect English. This film about their 1927 court case touches upon issues that still haunt our justice system: the death penalty, political hysteria and the rights of outsiders within the American court system.

Saturday evening features “Land and Freedom (Tierra y Libertad).” The film is a fictional account of one man’s experience within the confusing times of the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Civil War represents an outpouring of modernist idealism, a struggle against tyranny and the attempt of a nation to collectivize and allow its people to control their own destinies.

What resulted was antipathy from the international community, disorganization domestically and ultimately the failure of a movement begun with the highest ideals. The film engages one of the great events of the 20th century by telling an intensely personal story.

The role of the independent press and the contributions of writer I.F. Stone are explored in the documentary “I.F. Stone Weekly,” showing Sunday. Reacting to the censorship of the McCarthy era, Stone began publishing his own paper in 1953.

This independence allowed Stone to criticize governmental policy, explore wrongdoings and publish politicians’ lies for 20 years without worrying about editorial interference.

What made his paper so powerful was his strength in research, his sharp wit and intelligence. He influenced an entire generation of activists, including Noam Chomsky, probably America’s only anarcho-activist who might be a household name. This film explores Stone the man, his paper and his legacy.

The festival wraps up next weekend with four additional films and comes highly recommended. The combination of quality filmmaking and quality content is something often overlooked in these times and series curator Pietro Ferrua has done an excellent job compiling this festival.