Thumbs up, thumbs down


“Battle in Seattle”

Directed by Stuart Townsend

USA, 98 min., Rated R

In late September, North Texas union activists started receiving pleas to help get “Battle in Seattle” into more movie theaters. At that time, it was scheduled to open on only 11 screens nationwide. AFL-CIO, Change to Win, the Teamsters and Steelworkers asked activists to demand that the movie be shown in their cities. The promotional web site is This is a “grassroots-powered” movie.

Apparently, some North Texans responded, and the film opened October 3 both in Dallas and the nearby company town of Plano. Plano closed it after one week, but, by then, the Angelika Theatre in Dallas had agreed to let Jobs with Justice have half an hour after the 7 p.m. showing on Oct. 10. About 45 activists showed up. Nearly all of them were known to Jobs with Justice and/or the Dallas Peace Center.

The feature film used a lot of footage from the actual 1999 events, including from this newspaper’s sister’s former cable TV show “Changing America.” The film, like the real Battle in Seattle, blasts the World Trade Organization and the entire scandal of “free trade” (naked imperialism) into the world’s consciousness. The emotional focus of the film was on the group of radical environmentalists who organized the initial blockades downtown and the policemen who opposed them. The masked “anarchists” who broke windows are mentioned in passing. Labor’s historic turn toward working with environmentalists and other activists was largely brushed over. The enormous number of independent activists carrying signs opposing child labor weren’t mentioned.

Nevertheless, the audience in Dallas was thrilled with the film. We could not restrain ourselves from repeating some of the marchers’ chants after the house lights came on. “There ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop!”

The President of the Dallas AFL-CIO, Nancy Hall, then gave a short report on her recent fact-finding trip to Colombia. She explained clearly that Colombian trade unionists, like us, want no part of Bush’s proposed “Colombia Free Trade Agreement.” She added that they were closely following the U.S. presidential race and were pulling for Barack Obama, who has promised to review NAFTA and the entire “free trade” process.

A number of audience members signed up with an Obama campaign organizer. In the third and last presidential debate John McCain attacked Obama’s opposition to the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Obama countered by telling the American people about the unacceptable numbers of trade unionists being murdered each day in that war-torn country.

Hall answered questions from the audience, who then broke out into another chant and left the theater with a strong commitment to get other activists to see the film. The next day’s theater listing, however, dropped “Battle in Seattle.” Undoubtedly, North Texans will buy and show the DVD when it appears.

The movie night was filmed by a Jobs with Justice activist. It’s up at:


Directed by Oliver Stone

USA, 113 min., Rated PG-13

If moviegoers already know that Josh Brolin, Richard Dreyfus, and (especially) Thandie Newton are gifted performers, then they have nothing to learn by going to see “W.”

The movie is slow, uninteresting and unforgivably boring.

Oliver Stone portrays W as a Shakespearean tragedy. Stone’s Bush is a flawed hero. The poor guy is just a little slow, but he really means well. He’s misled to his ultimate doom by craftier men with unspoken ambitions. Stone should have named it “MacBush.”

Despite the movie’s herculean attempt to portray Bush as a sympathetic character, all the tragedy is misplaced. It isn’t there, in Bush’s biography. It’s out here, in the rest of the world, where the real tragedy of Bush’s life is being played out!