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Antonio Negri, A Revolt that Never Ends

Alexandra Weltz and Andreas Pichler, Directors
First Run/Icarus Films, New York, 2004
VHS video cassette, 52 mins., c/b&w
Sales (Video-DVD), $390; rental (Video), $100
Distributor’s website: http://www.frif.com.

Reviewed by Stefaan Van Ryssen
Hogeschool Gent


Antonio Negri was put on trial and convicted to a life sentence by the Italian State for his alleged ideological leadership of the Red Brigades. After 10 years of imprisonment, he went into exile to Paris where he taught, continued his research, and contributed to philosophical debates with authors such as Deleuze and Guattari. After 15 years he voluntarily returned to his home country. Now an elderly man, he was arrested at his arrival and went to jail for another eight years. Even now, while he is under house arrest, he continues to work and write. With Michael Hardt, Negri published Empire, the ‘Bible of the anti-globalization movement’ and its sequel, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire.

The film follows Negri from his youth in a labour class family through his radicalization and involvement in the radical left-wing movements of the Sixties and Seventies and his imprisonment and exile up to his present activities. It features recent interviews with Negri himself and some earlier archival footage of protest demonstrations, strikes, and public speaking appearances, as well as interviews with Michael Hardt and some of Negri’s Italian and French colleagues.

The influence of Negri on the radical left in Italy and abroad cannot be underestimated, and he is now eagerly taking his place as a guru of the anti-globalization movement, but this does not justify the one-dimensional image that is offered by this documentary. Surely, the ‘Devil’ (as he was once called by Libération, the French independent newspaper) would have been portrayed better in a dialectical context of debate and criticism. It is my guess that he would have appreciated that much more than this eulogical surrogate of a portrait. Unless, of course, the master has come to understand the power of mass media and has fallen victim to its siren song. A renewed reading of his compatriot and namesake Gramsci might, then, be advisable.




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