Just Do It

Just Do It


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Editor's note: This review is based on a rough-cut version of the film

"Be the change you want to see in the world."

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It's an oft-used quote, attributed to Gandhi, but some take it more literally than others. When Marine joined the Just Do It environmental campaign group all she did was make the tea. Now she has ascended in the hierarchy to a point where she uses her body to peacefully block the activities of politicians and construction workers, where she stands in the front line in an attempt to bring about change.

Lily tells us that it was coming to understand climate science that got her. She was a student at Cambridge, looking forward to a glittering career. Now she's an activist, getting a different type of education, coming face to face with less savoury aspect of how the world is run. She too is putting herself on the line, at risk of injury and arrest. Many viewers will shake their heads, wondering why these people do it when they must know their actions are likely to be futile. This film attempts to answer that question.

It's not a neutral documentary. It doesn't pretend to be. But much of what it shows seems raw, unfiltered; there's room to form a variety of opinions about what is said. Is it fair for the protestors to expect courtesy from the police in every circumstance? Perhaps not; but the value of co-operative policing is shown here, illustrating the ways in which it can make things more pleasant for everybody. We also see more aggressive strategies in action. The team's ability to keep filming in chaotic situation is impressive; likewise the quality of their footage. It's a shame that the film is let down by poor sound balance.

Lily is young and middle class, like a lot of the activists we meet. This has become shorthand in the press for people who don't know what they're talking about, yet many of these young people demonstrate a good understanding of the issues and of the various economic and political strategies available for tackling climate change. In many cases they are simply demanding that governments and corporations be held to account when they break the law. In some cases they are successful.

Importantly, this film also shows us the older activists who stand beside them. The campaign is, in fact, comprised of people of all ages and from all sorts of different backgrounds. We are privy to their strategy meetings, their pep talks, their frantic phone calls after things go wrong. We get to know their personal reasons for becoming involved. When they go to Heathrow to protest against a runway extension they are supported by locals who bring them food, reminding us that they are just the tip of the iceberg as far as political concern about environmental issues goes. And that concern is growing.

With strong narratives and a wealth of interesting footage, this is an impressive film that may not be quite as incisive as it needs to be but nevertheless makes important points. It seems destined to acquire historic value in providing a record of change.

Reviewed on: 04 Jun 2011
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A first-hand look at the politics of civil disobedience in the UK.
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Director: Emily James

Year: 2010

Runtime: 75 minutes

Country: UK

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