Maribor Uprisings screened

On Oct. 5 and 9, the Oak Institute for Human Rights sponsored the screenings of the Maribor Uprisings, a documentary by Associate Professor of Global Studies Maple Razsa and Colby Alumnus Milton Guillén ’15, and the film We the Workers by 2017 Oak Fellow Jinyan Zeng and Chinese filmmaker activist Wen Hai. These two events was co-sponsored with the Center for Arts and Humanities, Colby Cinema Studies, the Cultural Events Committee, and the Pugh Center.

The Maribor Uprisings focused on the protests against government corruption in Maribor, Slovenia, in 2012. In its participatory form, the film called on the audience to become involved in the filmmaking process by choosing the course of the film and gave viewers the chance to explore certain directions, such as helicopter footage or police confrontation, further. All the footage is shot by protesters and collected from YouTube with permission.

Before the screening for Maribor Uprisings began, Razsa and Guillén introduced the film in its live participatory form, emphasizing that the audience has the ability to guide its trajectory by making collective decisions that protests, such as the one in the film, must make. They made it clear that they promote respectful participation and urged those who are usually outgoing to take a step back and let those who are quieter talk.

The narrators of the Maribor Uprisings stress how much of a shock it was to see such protests in the usually quaint town, urging audience members to imagine that this could happen anywhere. An audience member at the Colby screening shared in the post film discussion period that, as a native of Belfast, despite being fearful, he wanted to see how such protests would manifest in the American context and if they would ever be powerful enough to challenge the dominant and militarized government of the United States.

We the Workers was similarly well received by the Colby audience. The film was shot between 2009 and 2015 and follows the lives of workers and activists in ultra-industrialized southern China. The film seeks to give nameless workers a face and portray them as a force of opposition rather than as mere victims.

The production explores the dark side of the Chinese economic miracle that is based on the exploitation of millions of workers through practices such as underpayment and dismal working conditions. In the face of such oppression, any activists who organize workers are arrested and abused by criminals as well as the police, while pro-workers rights lawyers are pressured not to take such cases.

This semester, the Oak Institute for Human Rights is committed to exploring the connection between documentaries and activism through its Human Rights Film Series. The theme is “Resistance and Repression” and is featuring films focused on different movements, such as the Free Brazil Movement in #Resistance. The next screening is on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. in Olin 1, called Waking the Green Tiger by Gary Marcuse.