“This story was initially published as part of the The International People’s Platform for Climate Justice project”
Forms of resistance to capitalist realism and the creation of alternatives constitute the central theme of my films and art projects. My own interest in these questions goes back many years now.
When I set out to produce a cycle of films on climate activism (“Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart”), it was very clear to me one of the films must address Europe’s largest autonomous territory, the ZAD. This “Zone to be Defended” emerged from a struggle against a new airport close to Nantes in France.
More than 40,000 people fiercely resisted the French state’s attempt to evict the zone in 2012. When I traveled to the ZAD in summer 2017 with my film team Thomas Parb and Rudolf Gottsberger, the police had not set foot there since the year of the eviction attempt. In 2017, 250 people forming 60 collectives lived permanently at the site, occupying the wetlands, fields and forests.
I was interested in the ZAD as a successful example of how resistance to climate-destructive infrastructure could be brought together with the creation of alternatives. People at the ZAD have taken back control of their lives, with self-organized bakeries, workshops, a brewery, medicinal herb gardens, a rap studio, a weekly newspaper and a library. Meanwhile, they have blocked construction of an unnecessary, ecologically disastrous airport.
The site has been described as a “laboratory of social communing”. Organizing by means of non-hierarchical, horizontally structured assemblies, people living there have established a sustainable collective practice, entirely outside the market.
The film is built around a group discussion with activists living at the ZAD. After the completion of the film in April 2018, French police again attempted to evict the ZAD. In an incursion resembling an act of civil war, several of the beautiful self-built houses and cabins seen in the film were destroyed. Some people subsequently left the site, while others began to fight for legal recognition of their projects. The ZAD persisted then and still persists today.
Further films by Oliver Ressler can be checked out here: https://www.youtube.com/c/OliverResslerFilms