East End Film Festival: The Kettling of Voices – Review

The other day, I attended my first demonstration and march. In the wake of Brexit, a result I didn’t want, the state of the UK is trembling, threatening to crumble into the channel and disappear forever. The urgency within me and the sorrow I felt since that infamous vote on Friday pushed me to take a stand alongside fellow like-minded folk who seriously, just, wanted to stay in the EU.

Regardless of how the media and opposition portrayed us, the whole rally was a peaceful unison of those desperate to fight back against the government that was strangling our nation. Luckily, for us, no violence or excessive force was used.

Unfortunately for others, there is often a backlash against their protest and often, it is at the hand of the government and police force.

The Kettling of Voices revolves around the 2010 Student Protests which saw days of demonstrations and the fall out of their struggle with police. With violence erupting on both sides, the focus of the documentary looks at brutal tactics of the police who sparked bigger flames throughout the protest, especially with the titular practise of “kettling;” forming a ring over the crowd and denying the civilians access to water, food, and hygienic facilities.

There is no denying that the way the police force tackle protests is a little uncouth which make for an invigorating watch at times. Any video footage of folks in throes of political and angry passion, just wanted life to be a bit fairer, sends cascades of shivers and rage down your spine. Especially when you see the tactics of those around them, hitting young students, causing bedlam, and insulating them in this dire, claustrophobic situation. The damaging effects both political and physical (one man had to have surgery after his concussion) show that the government and the police force still haven’t tackled how to deal with public outage of this type.

The biggest problem with this film is the one-sided nature of it. From the video footage, you can see the peaceful protesters and the understandable anger from students but you can also see outlier folk wishing to cause trouble. Overlaying clear narrators saying that everyone was united with people causing havoc or clearly there because they were whipped up in the bedlam of it causes concern. And definitely makes the second half of the film dull. Hearing the same side explain exactly what happened with footage becomes rather slow and plodding, as with most documentary films. The music is also overtly dramatic, taking away from the visceral and real emotions beating in the heart of the students and protestors.

Let’s be clear, however, I am not saying that The Kettling of Voices is anti-police or disparaging the protest. I was a student when they were happening and I fully support the cause. What I am saying is that without balancing or furraging further into the history of the protests, the movie settles on one tedious stream. A galliant effort from Chester Yang and some powerful scenes here do make an intriguing watch, and one to watch if you want to uncover just how violence progresses.


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