People from all sides of the cultural battlefield confront smartphone footage of the French gilets jaunes protests and the police crackdown they inspired in this intelligent and innovative documentary.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
This smart and provocative examination of political violence takes an unusual approach to the ‘talking heads’ documentary. The interviewees (who include protestors, police and politicians to journalists and academics) are engaged in dialogue with one another, often in response to large-scale projections of covert smartphone footage of protests and police interventions, though they are not formally identified until the end of the film. Although some give away their sympathies in the course of discussion, for the most part we can only assess them on the strength of their arguments, pro or con or, often, painfully ambivalent.
Those arguments are extremely wide-ranging, from the philosophy of Max Weber (from whose Politics as a Vocation the film draws its title), to the increasing politicisation of law enforcement and stark personal testimony of police brutality. The events described and the nature of the discourse may be deeply rooted in the French experience, but the issues the film confronts and the lessons it offers are troublingly universal.
The Monopoly of Violence is a prime example of a filmmaker employing a simple, powerful template to allow the complexities of a thorny issue to surface naturally. — Andrew Langridge