Just Do It: A Tale Of Modern-Day Outlaws
The world of environmental direct action has remained a secretive one, until now. Just Do It’s opening title solemnly reads.
For one eventful year, the makers of this film were allowed to follow a community of UK activists.
This is what happened.
Or the spiffing lark we had on our endless gap year!*
If you’ve ever watched the news and seen footage of anti-capitalist protests or the inflammatory coverage in the newspapers and worried that society is breaking down, worry not. Emily James’ documentary Just Do It burrows deep inside the secretive world of the eco-activist and reveals what you probably already suspected: they’re not the violent anarchists thugs portrayed by the media, they’re mostly a coalition of annoyingly earnest, non-violent, upper middle-class white kids and annoyingly earnest middle-aged, middle-class white hippies who talk a lot about revolution and overthrowing capitalism but whose actual civil disobedience mainly consists of drinking a lot of tea, cycling without a helmet and indulging in mildly illegal acts of trespass and vandalism.
Beginning with the London G20 protests on April Fools Day 2009, which saw the death of Ian Tomlinson, and following a year in the life of the environmental direct action group Climate Camp, Emily James’ Just Do It is a smug, dumbed-down, partisan documentary that’s content to preach to the converted, it’s likely potential audience consisting mostly of the Climate Campers themselves.
Thrill as they smash the worldwide capitalist system by cycling through the streets of London and Copenhagen! Gasp as they bring global finance to its knees by invading the trading floor of RBS, sitting down and super-gluing themselves to each other! Watch in amazement as our heroes wander the woods trying to gain entry to a coal power station! Scratch your head in puzzlement as a room full of nice young activists vote on which of them are ‘arrestible!’
With frustratingly simplistic and annoyingly smug narration by narrator and activist James Leadbitter, this cosy portrait of ‘professional domestic extremists’ feels more like a home movie than a feature documentary. Other than exposing the activists not as dangerous subversives but as a thoroughly nice, if slightly naïve, bunch of good eggs committed to trying to save the planet by any means necessary (except violent ones), Just Do It doesn’t impart much in the way of actual knowledge of the issues and feels like a wasted opportunity. There’s nothing of the depth here of Al Gore’s award-winning PowerPoint presentation An Inconvenient Truth. More interested in glorifying it’s cast of, frankly, pretty uninteresting, unengaging poshos, Just Do It skates over Tomlinson’s death and totally fails to mention the scandalous infiltration of agent provocateurs by the authorities. It does however feature some shocking footage of the brutal tactics used by the police and exposes just how manipulative and sensationalist our news media is.
While the film bills the Climate Campers as ‘modern-day outlaws’ you can’t help but feel that these rebels without applause would have a greater impact on climate change if they just stayed home and turned the ruddy lights off.
*This statement was just cynical old me being facetious.