Dominic Brown’s documentary The Beginning has an important part to play in the telling of the 2013 anti-government protests that occupied Takism Square, Istanbul. The protest itself made mainstream media headlines on the international platform because of the Istanbul police’s use of tear gas and water cannon, which have been condemned by the international community. However, within Turkey there was very little coverage of the protests by the media.
With such a rapid unfolding of political and geopolitical events taking place, only the most shocking and sensationalist new stories are reported. Because of this it is easy to lose sight of the intentions of such an event. However, within this national crisis Brown’s focus is fixed on the roots of the protest itself and the people that formed it.
The protest itself was a rally for a number of causes, the central one being a plan to build a shopping centre and military barracks in the Gezi Park. This soon became a beacon for anti-government protests from both left-wing and right-wing groups. The Beginning really does start at the beginning of the protest, showing the empowerment of protest and the positive force it can be.
As a filmmaker, Brown takes a back seat, allowing the event and its images to unfold in front of the audience largely without comment. These images are a mix of both photographs and film taken over the course of the protest. It is a confident and effective means of storytelling for this type of documentary, which allows the audience a chance to see the human side of things. As a film and as a protest, it is not subject to left-wing or right-wing politics, it is a story about oppression and power. The film guides us through the escalation of the protest movement that is catalysed through the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon by the police. Still, this is not to say the film is without joy as the interviews with the protesters show. These people are hopeful, well-spirited and excited about their joint effort in showing their rulers that the government works for them, and not the other way around. Many images in the film are celebratory, showing a community spirit within the camp using art, such as dance, as a means of protest.
The film is a relatively small piece of a much larger story. It does however allow people to gain a basic understanding of what was happening and why it happened. This is also magnified by the ground zero documenting of Brown, who helps humanise the event in a way the larger media sources would not have.