Occupy Wall Street celebrated its first birthday this week. In the past year, the young political movement has inspired laws, riots and several retrospective glances, not the least among them the new documentary Occupy Unmasked. Directed by conservative filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon, the piece stays true to its title, aiming both unflinching cameras and harsh historical analysis at a handful of Occupy branches (Denver's own included) to bring attention at the faces and figures behind the movement. Before Occupy Unmasked plays at the AMC Highlands Ranch 24 tonight, Westword caught up with Bannon on his intentions, his biases and the surprises he uncovered while documenting a revolution.
Westword: At what moment did you begin to consider making a film out of the movement?
Stephen Bannon: (Well-known political commentator) Andrew Breitbart literally -- this is the amazing thing when you see the film -- he came up to me three days after it started, maybe September 19 or 20. He was just on fire about this movement being positioned as the way to solve the debt crisis. The film starts off with a prologue, this debate in Washington about increasing the debt limits, and I end that prologue onscreen by saying that President Obama's popularity ratings were 39 percent. Andrew Breitbart, three days into it, was telling me, "You don't understand. This is how the left is going to change the discussion."
I'd done a couple Tea Party movies, and I said, "Andrew, you're just blowing steam. This is just a couple of people on the grates in Zucotti Park sleeping during the day." It wasn't until the Brooklyn Bridge incident a couple weeks in that I was convinced. Andrew got it right away. It took me several weeks to realize there was a story here worth telling -- and that it was something vastly different than was being portrayed.