Taking Liberties (2007)

  |  Documentary

Taking Liberties (2007) Poster

An examination of the erosion of civil liberties that has gradually taken place in recent years.


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Chris Atkins


Chris Atkins

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12 June 2007 | cliffhanley_
You have to laugh...
This is a collection of true stories, all products of the UK's New Labour government and the so-called War on Terror. It opens with the bus-full of peaceful demonstrators (friends of mine) on their way to Fairford to complain about it's being used for bombing expeditions to Iraq, stopped, brutally forced to remain on the (no-toilet) bus and escorted back to London by a horde of police vans and bikes.

The patch-work continues with Walter Wolfgang, the elderly and eminently respectable party member roughed up by ape-men for shouting 'Rubbish' at Jack Straw, Pinochetist Home Secretary. Rose and Ellen, two young sisters arrested on a peaceful demo at an airport, held in solitary for 36 hours, thrown out in the night, their money and mobiles stolen by the police, and warned that speaking to each other would violate their terms of bail. Mouloud Sihali, found innocent in court, but then imprisoned in his own home for two years. Omar Deghayes, a British resident who has been held in Guantanamo for five years and is being left at the mercy of the government that murdered his father.

Also the RAF war veteran arrested for wearing an anti-Bush and Blair T-shirt; an innocent man shot in a police raid based on a faked-up claim about a Ricin poison factory, and a major new change in the law to allow the government to stop one man from keeping his lonely anti-war vigil outside the Houses of Parliament.

Britain has a history of control freakery: in Malaysia after 1945 we separated off the ethnic Chinese population, putting them in reservations where they could be controlled while we maintained war with the Chinese insurgents outside. The UK today is looking ever more like a large reservation, with the sea for a wall. The government contends that we are threatened from outside, and just like anyone with a paranoia problem, makes that threat a reality by its pre-emptive wars. This allows it to behave as the 1939 government did, removing all our rights for our own good.

Right to Protest, Right to Freedom of Speech. Right to Privacy. Right not to be detained without charge, Innocent Until Proved Guilty. Prohibition from Torture. All listed on the screen, and one-by-one, ripped off. Taking Liberties portrays these real stories of liberty loss using up-dated interviews, citizen/journalist footage, newsreel, stunts, and comment from comedian Mark Thomas, Observer writer Henry Porter, Tony Benn, Amnesty, academics and lawyers. Narration from Ashley Jensen (Extras, Ugly Betty); a powerful soundtrack with tracks by, among others, Oasis, Radiohead, The Stranglers and Franz Ferdinand. It almost loses pace 80 minutes in, but the content carries it. By turns horrifying and good-humoured, it's being touted as the UK's equivalent of Fahrenheit 9/11, but it is without the former's flaws, and it's of much more immediate importance. A pity that the distribution deal limited it to out-of-town multiplexes in the UK, so much of its target audience were unaware of its very existence. CLIFF HANLEY

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