Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2012: ‘Black Block’


G8 Summits have become synonymous with political protest, civil unrest and running battles between activists and police. The 2001 Genoa summit was a particularly dramatic affair, involving around 200,000 protesters and an army of officers whose violent handling of the situation led to a number of individuals being charged. The most heinous example of police brutality – the unprovoked attack on the Diaz school which involved police storming the building as activists slept and subjecting them to savage beatings – is the subject of Carlo Augusto Bachschmidt debut feature Black Block (2011).

Bachschmidt interviews several activists who were at the Diaz school and each of them recounts their own version of events. Obviously they have all been affected by the experience and although their injuries have long since healed the mental scars remain.

Although little footage of the raid exists the snippets of video footage, photographs and eye witness testimonies paint a vivid picture and no matter what your politics are it’s clear that something very wrong happened that night and the Italian government attempts to exonerate the police is yet another example of how corruption during the tenure of Silvio Berlusconi was epidemic.

Anyone looking to criticise Black Block might suggest the argument is very much one sided and perhaps an interview with an official or a police officer would have provided the balance that some will require. It’s not the most beautifully constructed documentary but it succeeds in it’s aim to shed light on an incident that received little media coverage and has long faded from memory.

Whilst films such as this are usually only sought out by left leaning liberals they deserve a wider audience and remind us that cinema can educate as well as entertain. You might not agree with the activists or care about there cause but their courage and determination to fight the good fight despite what they suffered at the hands of the state should inspire you and at the very least, earn your respect.

For more info on the Human Rights Watch Festival 2012, visit

Lee Cassanell