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Ben Addelman, Samir Mallal, 2004, 68 min 40 s
On September 9, 2002, a scheduled appearance by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked heated debate at Montreal’s Concordia University. By the end of the day, the “Concordia riot” has made international news, from CNN to Al-Jazeera. This film documents the fallout from that eventful day, following three young campus activists as they negotiate the most formative year of their lives. Filmmakers Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal jump into the fray with street-smart bravado and a handheld camera. Buoyed by the songs of hip-hop artist Buck 65, this film offers a tonic reflection on the current state of Canadian student activism and the enduring value of tolerance.
I could not be at a better place at a better time. As it happens, I work in the very same building at the centre of this movie’s action, and at the centre of the 1969 riot and occupation that had a profound impact on the Black Power revolution in the Caribbean. One of the leading student activists back then became the Prime Minister of Dominica. News of the event spread quickly, and led to demonstrations in Trinidad & Tobago, with a pronounced anti-imperialist, anti-Canadian orientation. Canadian banks in Trinidad & Tobago were subsequently nationalized, and the practice of hiring only “lighter” skinned and non-Africans in banks came under severe scrutiny. I was happy to see Noam Chomsky in this film, speaking with one of the Concordia student activists about the riot to block Benjamin Netanyahu from campus. Subsequent plans to bring Ehud Barak were scuttled as well. A final note of flattery: Concordia University has since 2002 been called by some, “Gaza U,” “Concordistan,” and the ever inflamed Alan Dershowitz says it is “not a real university.” It has become the darling of various “campus watch” and “jihad watch” websites. I could not be at a better place, at a better time.