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Saturday, December 18, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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WTO, The Movie, Plays To Packed Screenings

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

------------------------------- WTO documentary

"Showdown in Seattle" will be shown tonight at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at the Independent Media Center (between Pike and Union streets); admission is $7, and tapes are on sale at each showing. Further showings are being arranged; contact 206-262-0721 for details. -------------------------------

As Seattle struggles to make sense of the week that was WTO, people are reliving it in packed screenings of the hour-long documentary, "Showdown in Seattle: Five Days That Shook the WTO."

The movie includes footage from hundreds who took to the streets with digital cameras, and the result is a WTO week many Seattleites did not see.

It premiered in a Pioneer Square loft theater Thursday night, shows through the weekend and will be packaged for international distribution. "Showdown" has attracted standing-room-only crowds, many of whom say they want a counterpoint to local or commercial coverage.

With "Showdown in Seattle," that's what they get.

An interview with a police baton supplier is intercut with footage of his weapon being used. But there is little overt editorializing. Instead, the film relies on a collage of voices. One of its central moments features an instrumental version of "O Holy Night" playing while, in slow motion, a camera pans a darkened Westlake Center. A glistening Christmas tree is ringed by clouds of tear gas, and heavily armored guards are the only visible human presence.

The documentary is just a slice of the work compiled and edited 24 hours a day during WTO by the Seattle Independent Media Center. Hundreds of videographers, who came from around the world to film, supplied a constant stream of footage to volunteer professional editors.

The center created a half-hour of footage that was released internationally every morning during WTO via satellite. It also ran a Web site, http://www.indymedia.org, with constant updates and streaming video.

Behind the film are activist and educational broadcasters based in Seattle, New York, Sydney, San Francisco and Santa Barbara, Calif.

Despite its weighty subject, "Showdown in Seattle" is not melodramatic. While it covers almost all the issues raised by protesters, politics are balanced by humorous vignettes: A delegate declaims the importance of trade while he tries to shop in a deserted downtown; a mother coaches her baby daughter on a union slogan in Spanish. Because videographers came from around the world, many interviews are not in English and are subtitled.

Andrew De Roux, a local sculptor and Web designer, came to see the film because he followed the center's Web site and mainstream news.

"There was such a huge difference in how the week was presented," De Roux said. "I think the film they've produced is educational. It conveyed the actual messages that people were trying to send - why they actually came from all over the world to Seattle."

During WTO week, De Roux said, he was caught in tear gas fired at the corner of Fourth and Pine. "That was in the film, and it was shown very objectively," De Roux said.

Violence appears in "Showdown," but in context. One scene shows a group of officers in the midst of a rowdy crowd. Climbing onto a surrounded car and aiming into the protesters, the officers seem clearly beleaguered. Inflammatory events on Capitol Hill are not included. The now-infamous Starbucks window-smashing is shown only once.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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