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Gezi Park and The Turkey Uprising As You've Never Seen It Before

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, August 30 2013

Still from Taksim Commune

The film opens with the sound of explosive clapping, drumming and chanting. The first images are of destroyed streets, smoke blossoming from an improvised barricade and men standing defiantly on a pile of bricks. Then a shot of an injured man being carried by four others, all with their mouths and noses covered by scarves or masks. These are the opening scenes of Taksim Commune: Gezi Park and The Uprising In Turkey, a short documentary that captures not only the conflict that marred the protest, but the jubilation and energy that defined it first.

Written, directed and filmed by journalist Brandon Jourdan and sociologist Marianne Maeckelbergh, the documentary is part of their larger project called Global Uprisings. On their website, Jourdan and Maeckelbergh describe Global Uprisings as “an independent news site and video series dedicated to showing responses to the economic crisis and the crisis of legitimacy facing governance at this historical juncture.” In addition to their most recent film about Gezi Park, they have made films of protests and uprisings in Egypt, Greece, Portugal and Spain, as well as in the U.K. and U.S.

For those without any real understanding of what took place in Turkey, Taksim Commune is a helpful sum-up: Maeckelbergh's narration includes all the important dates, names, and statistics (including fatalities and injuries). But for those who did follow the uprising, whether on social media or mainstream media, Taksim Commune helps to synthesize existing knowledge of facts with the voices of the protesters.

As Jourdan said when he introduced the film at a New York screening Thursday, the “media sometimes covers what (although not always accurately), but never why.” That is what he and Maeckelbergh try to get at in their Global Uprisings film series.

Following the screening, one audience member who had been in Turkey at the time of the protests praised the filmmakers for capturing the spirit of the uprising. He observed that traditional media missed or overlooked the community and jubilation present at the protests.

In only half an hour, the documentary could only do so much, and the digital side of the protests was not explored. Although the protests led to record-breaking tweeting and online sharing in Turkey, the story that spread on social media in the U.S. was a convoluted and often inaccurate one, as we explained on techPresident earlier this year.

The film was screened on Thursday, August 29, at Not An Alternative, the inaugural event for the arts collective and nonprofit's new space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. However, all of Jourdan and Maeckelbergh's films (all 24, I believe they said) are available on the Global Uprisings website.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.