Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our short reviews in the style of festival films, VR advancements and other special event launches. This review comes from the 2018 SXSW Interactive Festival.
Just a couple of days before he saw the documentary Alt-Right: Age of Rage by Adam Bhala Lough, the white nationalist "alt-right" leader Richard Spencer said he would no longer organize publicized events on college campuses. "When they turn into violent confrontations and pitched battles, they are not fun," he complained, blaming the anti-fascist antifascist movement for preventing people from attending classes. "Antifa is winning."
The question of who is "winning" the battle for extreme white supremacy is constantly changing, which is one of the difficulties Age of Rage faces. Depending on where you start and stop a story about the alt-right, it might seem like a dangerous marginal movement, a cultural vanguard or a complete joke. The film focuses on the rise of the movement after the election of Donald Trump, which culminated in the tragic events of a demonstration in Charlottesville, North Carolina last August, when an assistant rammed his car through a crowd, killing the protester Heather Heyer and wounding others. Age of Rage is more effective not to "explain" the alt-right, but to provide a snapshot of it, along with its anti-fascist opposition.
What is the genre?
Traditional narrative documentary.
What is it about?
The "alt-right" movement seeks to change the image of white nationalism as modern, intellectual and socially acceptable. Spencer, a racist connoisseur of the media, is one of its key architects. He wants to put the alt-right on the political map with a rally of "Unite the Right" in Charlottesville. But as the film reminds us of the beginning, Charlottesville's legacy was much darker than Spencer imagined.
& # 39; Age of Rage & # 39; establishes the conflict of two men against a larger political battle
Meanwhile, Daryle Lamont Jenkins, a long-time anti-fascist activist, runs One People's Project, which publicizes the identities and odious rhetoric of white supremacists. Jenkins follows Spencer and other figures of the extreme right following the election of Donald Trump, helping to organize protests and interrupt events. And like Spencer, Jenkins finally ends up in Charlottesville.
The parallel stories of Spencer and Jenkins provide the final line of the documentary, which culminates in the bloody mess of Unite the Right. Along the way, we get a handbook on the political origins of the right, a brief history of Jenkins activism and an ongoing discussion about whether alt-right rhetoric is dangerous enough to justify an aggressive demise of platforms or even violence . That includes extensive interviews with white supremacist Jared Taylor and Southern Poverty Law Center member Mark Potok, along with shorter conversations with other antifa and alt-right adepts.
What is it really about?
Age of Rage establishes the personal conflict between Spencer and Jenkins in the context of their larger ideological struggle. Jenkins, who is black, tracks the white supremacists to film them and "dox" – Spencer presents him with a strange theatrical description of "Daryle the Barrel", like a tough detective talking about a mafia boss. The two exchange insults when they meet, and Spencer and other figures on the right say they are being harassed and silenced, before explaining his plans to divide the United States (or his remains, since Spencer says the United States should dissolve first) in the race "ethnostates" specific.
The film sporadically and vaguely relates the rhetoric of the right to previous historical atrocities. It begins with a manifestation of the American Nazi party of 1930 and an appointment attributed to Hegel: "We learn from history that we do not learn from history". And it slightly covers the fundamentals of the movement, including former white supremacist groups and racist Internet communities.
Beyond specific personalities, Age of Rage traces the tense months between the inauguration of Trump and Charlottesville in the first half of 2017, from the infamous beating of Richard Spencer to the Berkeley rioters protesting against the alt-lite expert Milo Yiannopoulos. While Trump does not have much time in the air, Spencer and other white supremacists describe it as a sign that the white United States is ready to be drafted, and his election helps galvanize some of the less radical antifas supporters we see in action. .
Lough captures the flow of activism by Jenkins and Spencer over the course of the months, during which Jenkins appears as a complex and convincing character. Beginning in the world of punk rock, he founded One People's Project almost two decades ago, making him witness a dramatic change in the tactics and rhetoric of white supremacy. She is also one of the relatively few high profile people who identify with antifa. When he asks delicate questions about the movement's willingness to use violence against people like Spencer, he has more to lose than an anonymous protester, especially because he apparently spent years obscuring the full scope of his activism with his family.
Normalizing hate makes you look bored
Spencer, on the other hand, is remarkably boring to watch. This is partly a problem of oversaturation, since it has been profiled on numerous occasions, but it is also because Spencer carefully creates his own image to make the alt-right look normal. Age of Rage borders on the glamor of Spencer, with shots of the pensive man smoking cigarettes or drinking whiskey. More often, the film seems to follow a young electoral strategist obsessed with the perpetual smile of Nietzsche, whose class of donors includes 4chan and the KKK.
This veneer of respectability is (or was, at least, before Charlottesville) one of the terrifying things about the alt-right. Age of Rage sometimes highlights the contrast between Spencer's tweedy image and his extreme beliefs, for example, by asking how exactly he would establish his ethnostates. But it does not refer to the apocalyptic worldview that these moments reveal. Having Spencer try to spell out the details of what is called a "peaceful ethnic cleansing" – a basically oxymoronic claim – would help explain why anti-faction protesters believe that alternative style fascism is categorically different from general right politics. It would also be more attractive to see monologues about the differences in IQ between races and oppression against whites, a rhetoric that is not exclusive to the alt-right or even the "extreme right" and that, unfortunately, may not be as shocking as the filmmakers could try.
& # 39; Age of Rage & # 39; may not have the same impact for people who do not remember Charlottesville
Like the movie The New Radical of Lough, 2017, about the techno-adventurer Cody Wilson and the cryptowarrior movement, Age of Rage gives his controversial figures an open platform to present their opinions. It allows Spencer and Taylor to explain their philosophies in detail, periodically trimming the rebuttals of Potok or other interviewees. But the film does not really get into the strange overlapping movements that make the alt-right powerful but unstable. (There is an interview with the alternative vice co-founder along with the lawmaker Gavin McInnes, for example, but nothing about McInnes' strange quasi-bargains, the Proud Boys, named after a song by The Lion King and known for its elaborate rules about masturbation). And the film ends soon after Charlottesville, instead of following the way those movements fragmented and reformed in the wake of this.
It is difficult to objectively evaluate a movie like Age of Rage when its events are still very recent. I'm not sure if his footage of Unite the Right would seem so powerful to someone who had not been following the original news with horror, or if the ominous comments of the Trump protesters will be so easily understandable to future audiences. But it is about the chaos and fear that defined 2017, in a way that could help us make sense of it in the years to come.
What should be qualified?
Probably PG-13, for the language and most of the non-graphic shots of the protests, including the accident that killed Heyer.
How can I see it?
Alt-Right: Age of Rage is currently looking for distribution, but given its timeliness, it is likely that it will soon appear in a broadcast service.