Posted at 4:27 PM on September 1, 2008
by Euan Kerr
It's apt that Stuart Townsend had to dodge the riot police in St Paul when he came to the MPR studios to talk about his new film "Battle in Seattle." It screened this morning as part of the Impact Film Festival at the Landmark Center in St Paul,
The Irish director has spent the last six years working to get the film made. He says he moved to the US on September 10th 2001 and he says even while people were understandably upset by the events of 9/11 he was struck by how they also seemed to quash dissent.
As he looked for a way to examine this phenomenon he decided to look at what happened during the World Trade Organization protests in 1999 and how they spun out of control and shut down the city.
Of course what happened in Seattle is still a matter of some controversy and so Townsend decided to tell the story from many points of view.
"It's an ensemble film. There's 11 main characters," he says. "Through my research I found there were so many viewpoints. There was the media, there was the protesters, there was the cops, there was the mayor, and there was this sense of escalation with all of these viewpoints. So that's what I did, I just tried to capture as many viewpoints as possible."
Townsend says he thinks the film does have a viewpoint of its own, but respects the gray areas that exist in the tale.
"There isn't even a bad guy as such," he points out. "There isn't an antagonist."
He says that people forget that protesters succeeded in their aim of closing down the WTO conference in Seattle. However that success led to a change in the way cities prepare for large protests, and the introduction of security measures which keep protesters under careful police control.
Townsend says it's not been easy making his film. In fact he says "Battle In Seattle" came within a day of shutting down because he couldn't convince financers to back the project. Then Woody Harrelson and Charlize Theron came on board, and the rest of
an all star cast quickly signed up.
He says he hopes young people who may not remember what happened in Seattle will see the film and learn that dissent can make a difference.