I have to admit that when I first heard about this film I thought it might either be just anti-government, anti-labour, or just some radical group complaining that their perfect communist state isn't happening the way they wanted.
However the other night I watched the documentary and had an altogether different experience. The film shocked and slightly disturbed me, presenting a surprisingly intelligent and well balanced view of just what is happening to our rights.
Taking Liberties examines the changes in British laws over the last ten years that have seriously eroded the civil liberties of the British people, and the argument is presented clearly and rather convincingly.
By using the core values of what we perceive our freedoms to be, the film creates a central thread that we keep returning to. This thread carries a graphic of the key civil liberties that we as a nation enjoy, and it focuses on each of these in turn, returning to show when one has been eroded or removed by the Government.
“The Right to protest; Freedom of Speech; The Right to Privacy; Habeas Corpus, The Right to a Trial; Innocent Until Proven Guilty; Basic Human Rights”
We're shown, over time, what the Labour Government has been doing to revoke the civil liberties of the British people using the fear of terrorist attacks time and time again. We might not raise an eyebrow at a single law being implemented, or perhaps we might agree with one or two of them, but when you see them implemented by the Police and used together on the general public your views do change.
The film uses actual examples to show the effects of the changes in British Law on our rights, from that of people being prosecuted, televised direct quotations from the Prime Minister and other officials, and video footage of the Police enacting these new laws.
It has several interviews from people whose lives have been affected by these laws already, not people who you would expect from the fundamental or fringe groups, but normal everyday people such as you or I.
It talks to a British man who was held at Guantanamo, and another who was accused and found not guilty by a jury of the ricin plot and who is now held under house arrest with no charge following the London bombings, all the way through to an elderly headmistress and an ex-membeof the RAF.
This is one of the stronger aspects of the documentary in that it turns to the stories of people we can connect with or know of, and lets them tell their story in a simple and a very non-politicised way.
Other strong aspects of the documentary are the comparisons it makes to other times in history when similar civil liberties were removed, and the comparisons with other countries.
Perhaps the strongest moments are the two interviews with survivors of the London bombings on the 7th of July 2005, and both agree that implementing the laws that we have are allowing the terrorists to win and that we should have gotten up the next morning and continued on as always. One, who was plastered all over the papers covered in blood, was used to promote the need for some of these new laws, and yet he is steadfastly against them.
The film manages to put forward its message well by using these methods, keeping the connections real, using average people’s experiences, looking at real cases and making comparisons with other times and countries.
I found it surprisingly powerful and thought provoking, and indeed it may have changed my views on some issues that I thought I believed I held correctly. It wasn't wholly successful though as there were some areas that felt biased or slightly skewed, but
I’d recommend this film to anyone living in Britain, and those that aren’t, although you may see some of the scenes as overstating issues, on the whole it delivers a surprising and powerful message - the UK Government really are eroding and removing the civil liberties that those of us in the UK have enjoyed for so long. We need to wake up and make our voices heard before we’re not allowed to and there’s no one to listen.