February 2, 2007 Volume 108 Number 3

Movie fictionalizing 1999 WTO protest films for 3 days in Seattle

Battle In Seattle, a film about the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) protests, ended up filming for three days in Seattle, and 28 days in Vancouver, British Columbia. In effect, most of the filming and all of the post-film production work was”globalized,” for budget reasons, to Vancouver, British Columbia.

The movie’s producers also sought initially to shoot nonunion in Seattle, but Seattle Film Commission director James Keblas was able to broker a deal with local unions — including Teamsters and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) — that enabled the production to use union film crews. [The production used a mix of union and nonunion workers in Vancouver, where filming took place Nov. 4 to Dec. 14.]

Dec. 9-11 was an odd kind of deja vu for downtown Seattle, as several hundred extras played “protester.” Many extras had been real protesters the first time around, and some brought the same signs they carried during the week of massive protests.

“It brought back a lot of memories,” said Keblas, who took part in the largest of the WTO protest events, the 35,000-strong union march.

Battle in Seattle stars Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Ray Liotta, Andre Benjamin, Martin Henderson, Channing Tatum, Michelle Rodriguez, Jennifer Carpenter, Connie Neilson, and Joshua Jackson.

Writer-director Stuart Townsend appears to have viewed the events of late 1999 through his own lens. Thousands of union members remember taking part in huge and well-organized protests against corporate-led globalization, but Battle in Seattle looks set to emphasize street battles with police — production spokesperson Anna Dupas referred to the event as a “riot” and to participants as “rioters.”

Few union members are likely to agree with that characterization: While some vandalism occurred, most protesters were peaceful, including many hundreds who committed acts of civil disobedience that prevented delegates from getting to the meeting on the first day of the summit. On the other hand, police tactics were repressive and indiscriminate, as amply documented in later lawsuits. That, and a weeklong suspension of civil liberties, produced a political reaction that ended the careers of Seattle’s mayor and police chief.

Townsend’s fictionalized take on those events is expected to be released later this year.

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