Last night I was privileged to attend the premiere of the new film Tree-sistance (a rough guide to Non Violent Direct Action) by Graeme Benson.
If you look very hard you will see me in the trailer marshalling a protest! But why do we need another tree film when we already have The Felling? They are very different. The Felling concentrates mainly on the action on the streets, but Tree-sistance tells the broader story of the debates and protests at the Town Hall and the various court cases and looks at the risks and sacrifices the campaigners made to save trees with revealing personal interviews. To their shame, none of the Labour Councillors took part in the film, despite various requests for interviews, but they appear in videos from Full Council meetings and in reconstructions with avatars. They may not be very impressed with the likeness these avatars presented! (does my bum look big in this?!) The film also includes excellent comments from celebrities such as Chris Packham and Jonathan Porritt.
Graeme writes in the programme: “I came to the following conclusion. People are permanently not available for comment for these reasons.
- They have something to hide.
- They feel bloody guilty about it.
3. They are in a process of denial.
4. If you have got nothing to hide, you’re not afraid to talk on camera at some point.
Tree protestors talked to me. The Council didn’t. QED!”
I enjoyed the use of dance to punctuate the film. The dancers Fred and Ginger suggest the campaigners were leading the Council a bit of a dance, but also satirise everything that’s gone on before.
One of my favourite parts of the film was when the Labour Lord Mayor expelled Councillor Alison Teal from a Full Council meeting because she had accused Councillor Bryan Lodge of misleading the public over the use of Flexipave. This led to a walkout of all the opposition Councillors! Of course, her comments have been shown to be true.
There were a few inaccuracies in the film, such as Cllr Rob Murphy being misnamed, but overall it is a brilliant record of the highlights of the campaign from November 2016 to 2022, presented in an entertaining and occasionally laugh-out-loud way.
The film is timely as next week sees the beginning of the Street Tree Inquiry. This is a result of Sheffield Green Parties’ negotiations with Labour to jointly form an administration when Labour lost overall control of the Counci in 2021. Chaired independently by Sir Mark Lowcock. The goals of the Inquiry are
a) To support the ongoing recovery in Sheffield from the dispute
b) To draw conclusions and make recommendations designed to help minimise the risk of the dispute re-emerging in future.
In establishing the Inquiry, the Council has referred to a need for “truth and reconciliation”. The process will be transparent, so you can watch live streams or videos of the evidence given later. I hope Sir Mark will be taking the time to watch Tree-sistance!