Caravan/Prague The Uneasy Road to Change
A bicycle caravan with the theme Money or Life travels 500 miles across Europe to join protests in Prague against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The goal is to create a mobile utopian community which will be a living counter-example to the values of these powerful financial institutions.
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As background, it should be noted that the Prague protest was viewed the participating activists as an appropriate follow-up to the previous year's Seattle, Washington, USA protests. The Seattle protest actually overshadowed the proceedings of the World Trade Organization (WTO,) which the activists had come to address, in most international press outlets. The massive numbers of citizens from various countries and walks of life in Seattle in 1999 brought to many people's attention around the world the issues of economic globalization and the lack of transparency in the policy-making processes of many international economic organizations.
Thus, a meeting of the IMF and World Bank representatives would be a flashpoint in the push for a dialogue and the reformation of these organizations.
The theme of the Caravan, "Money or Life," was meant to present an alternate example to the policies of these two organizations. The hundred-plus young people from Europe and North America participating in the caravan had set themselves the goal of establishing a rolling utopian community where all decisions were established on a consensus basis. Meanwhile, the German and Czech police authorities were committed to warding off another Seattle.
A constantly moving action, with people camping out or sleeping in squats as they proceeded, because they had little money, presented a special challenge for police authorities. Ironically, we are thus presented with two caravans, that of activists and that of the police trying to constantly monitor them. This presents Winestine with humorous footage as the two caravans wend their way through some of Germany's most beautiful countryside.
The entire, feature-length documentary is seen from Winestine's eye and he provides narration. He takes us inside his head and through his special journey of adventure, self-discovery and humor in an especially optimistic voice that most viewers will empathize with, I predict. He comes across as youthful, intelligent and engaging, still exploring options for bringing about a better world.
Of course cycling has its own rhythms and that too comes through in the film. As said, the German countryside he shares with us is postcard beautiful. The interactions between the members of caravan itself run the gamut from slapstick to argumentative.
The resulting documentary is an astute exploration of group dynamics, improvised tactics, and the low tolerance for dissent expressed by the forces of globalization. This film will be of special interest to the politically-minded for its intimate portrayal of a social movement, its revealing insights into consensus building, and the vivid lesson in how authority reacts when it perceives a threat to the status quo.
To see freedom of expression violently suppressed in the streets of Prague only 11 years after the Velvet Revolution is a solemn reminder that the struggle for human rights is ongoing. Independent productions such as this - as eyewitness testimony, as historical document, as call to action - are vital tools in that struggle.
Caravan/Prague is a first-hand account of this journey to the historic 2000 Prague protests. Filmmaker Zack Winestine rode the entire trip with the caravan, filming from his bicycle as events unfolded. He recounts his hopes, fears, and questions, conveying the experience of participating in a community trying to bring about change that is both visionary and concrete. The resulting documentary is by turns contemplative, gripping, and inspiring.
DVD extras include an extended scene, trailer, and a DVD-Rom feature with extensive information about economic globalization. Also included is Quebec: At the Wall, a short film about the 2001 FTAA protests in Quebec City.
Note: This DVD sounds best if all Audio DRC (dynamic range control) options are turned OFF on playback equipment. For some reason, even light dynamic compression has a more noticeable (and more negative) effect on this DVD soundtrack than is usually the case.