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REVIEW: Preempting Dissent & Til the Cows Come Home

by Madalene Arias

REVIEW: Preempting Dissent & Til the Cows Come Home

An array of snapshots and videos taken from the cameras of protestors find a home in Greg Elmer and Andy Opel’s documentary Preempting Dissent, a film that strives to capture the origins of police procedures adopted during social demonstrations. Elmer called this an experimental film, one that required participation from as many people from around the world as possible. The piece draws from interviews and news casts to take its audience through the economic and legal elements that come into play as government and other power structures prepare for mass protests. Elmer told the audience that he wanted to debunk the myth that the chaos and police tactics around protests “come out of nowhere” at the documentary’s 25th screening, Tuesday night. The film begins with footage from the G20 protests of 2010 and later expands into social demonstrations from previous decades to provide its audience with historical insight into these police measures.

Til the Cows Come Home also takes its audience back to the summer of 2010, when locals of Kingston, Ontario resisted the Federal government’s decision to shut down Frontenac Prison Farm. This documentary gives its audience an intimate look at the hard work and passion that brought members of the Kingston community to sit before Frontenac and block the cattle trucks as they carried away the dairy herd. Ongoing footage of the standoff between protestors and police engages viewers in the dynamics of non-violent civil disobedience as pressure mounts and emotions peak. Interviews with former prison inmates and prison staff invite audiences to gain an understanding of the importance of farm work in the personal rehabilitation of convicted criminals. The film challenges the conservative government’s justification for closing prison farms across Canada, and it captures the frustration of those who took legal measures against these reforms to no avail. Til the Cows Come Home narrows in on the human aspect of social resistance in a way that is heartbreaking and empowering for its audience.

Together the stories presented in these documentaries lay out parallel realities. Til the Cows Come Home tells viewers that civil disobedience becomes necessary as a way of seeking negotiations with the state when playing by the rules doesn’t work. Preempting Dissent educates its audience about the state’s role in the systematic repression of political demonstrations, but highlights the power that is in the hands of modern activists – that being cameras to monitor police activity.




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Topics: Arts
Tags: Toronto

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Azucena Arias (Madalene Arias)
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