Impact was invited to a screening + Q&A of British activism film Just Do It, directed by Emily James. Here are our thoughts…
Just Do It is a fun and vibrant documentary that depicts a selection of civilised, polite and charismatic activists who regularly battle the threat of arrest while carrying out their various forms of protest.
Invigorating from start to finish, the film canters around the UK — at one point relocating to Copenhagen — looking at a variety of ‘direct action’ activism, and the protagonists who drive these movements forward. Breaking into power plants, arranging ‘climate camps’ in public areas and super-gluing themselves to the floors of a Lloyds TSB branch are all regular stunts undertaken by those onscreen, but it is consistently conducted with cohesion, dignity (usually) and above all else, intelligence.
The person who commands the most screen time is Marina, a woman of great verve, energy and personality, whose enthusiasm for her cause is infectious. Her ethos is to attempt to solve the world’s major problems one cup of tea at a time — offered not exclusively to activists but police officers and bailiffs too; however, she admits that sometimes more forceful action is the only effective policy. As the film reminds us on several occasions: doing something, no matter how small, is better than doing nothing at all, though this does not include just recycling or walking your kids to school.
The film classifies those depicted as ‘extremists’, a label that, while descriptive, is perhaps somewhat out-dated. As one of the spokespeople in the post-movie Q&A stated: isn’t it time we started calling those who avoid millions of pounds worth of taxes, who rape the world’s resources and who cripple economies with business deals based on risk the real extremists?
The realism and grit of the piece shines through when the film’s producer, Lauren Simpson, is arrested while legally and passively filming at the Copenhagen demonstration. It turns out to be a case of mistaken identity (made clear in the Q&A), though it’s still an obviously unpleasant and scary experience, particularly at the hands of the ruthless and empowered Danish police.
At times it feels like the film doesn’t convey the entire story, and that it poses more questions than answers. Capitalism is thoroughly represented as a terrible thing, but what is the real alternative? Numerous of the characters sport ‘post-capitalist’ badges, though their policies are not really explored. In this sense, it could be perceived as a fly-on-the-wall documentary that avoids rigorous exploration of its subject matter. There’s also an issue with pacing; throughout it feels like a look at several different causes and events, not gelled into one package with the proficiency befitting of an A-grade film.
Regardless, it still gets across both a compelling view of its characters and a powerful, occasionally bridging on emotional, justification of their cause. Those followed are so likeable you’ll find it hard not to get on their side. If any film converts you to activism this year, it will be this one.
I am attempting to arrange a free screening of ‘Just Do It’ at the Nottingham University campus for a date in October, get in contact with me at [email protected] if you might be interested in attending.