It seems that during any tumultuous event comes a media frenzy of epic proportions. The London riots of 2011 are a perfect example; the protests, which began after a young man was shot and killed by police, swiftly became an outbreak of disenfranchised youths and opportunistic looters showing their disdain for the law in violent ways. Now that the sensation and the moral outrage have subsided, there comes a film called Kanaval, from German-born, London-based director and editor Markus Schroder, which quietly turns this image on its head.
In the wake of Time Magazine‘s announcement that ‘The Protester’ is the Person Of The Year, it is easy to feel self-congratulatory. Has dissidence finally become acceptable? Don’t believe it. Take for instance, the very tiny mention of the London riots in Time’s article:
“In early August, after police in London shot and killed a young black man they were arresting, riots broke out all over England. Naturally, the rioters’ instantly resorting to violence attracted little sympathy. Yet a new, three-month study by the Guardian and the London School of Economics concluded that these rioters were also protesters, motivated by anger about poverty, unemployment and inequality as well as overaggressive policing.”
In an article designed to celebrate The Protester, the people involved in the London riots have similarly been sidelined as violent and reactionary, only gaining validity after a study by a prestigious university. This is why Schroder’s film is important. He allows a small but significant space for the ‘disaffected youth’, people who may not be incredibly articulate but who nevertheless should be heard in their myriad of voices and opinions and not de-humanized as an unintelligible and faceless pack of rioters.
Kanaval is the perfect example of how to mix aesthetics with politics. It combines interviews with three young men (who conceal their identities), footage and stills of the riots and montages of medieval imagery. The carnival theme continues throughout the clip; whether it is the carnival of the media reportage, the carnival of the rioting itself, or the carnival as artistic expression. The music from Under Brooklyn Palms is also used to stunning effect.
This is a film worthy of watching, no matter where you sit on the issue.