Knappenberger began filming in late 2010. By that time, the leaderless Anonymous had already transformed from being solely out for lulz, to also being interested in defending free speech and human rights. The group's 2008 war on Scientology incorporated both of those ideals, and Knappenberger does a terrific job of explaining the culture from which that campaign spawned, as well as its real world resonance — all told in a way that even Web pedestrians can comprehend. Through interviews with Housh and others, and with footage from demonstrations worldwide, We Are Legion argues that the anti-Scientology protest was the fastest-spreading demonstration in history at the time, as well as a movement that had significant influence on subsequent Arab Spring and Occupy actions.
Despite the warm reception, Knappenberger isn't sure yet if he's done with We Are Legion. Developments continue to unfold; in January, during the same week that he unveiled his project the Sundance Film Festival, Anonymous led a monumental distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against agencies and entities that supported the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). More recently, less than a week before SXSW, the FBI revealed that Anon instigator Hector Xavier Monsegur, known as Sabu, was working as an informant. But while closure is elusive, Legion's immediate relevance is a good problem to have.
"The fact that it was the most well-attended film of SXSW this year just speaks to the fact that people are ready for the kind of action shown in the film," says Housh. "I came away with a real sense that the film connected with the audience, and a hope that the connection leads to real action."
RAGE ON PARADE
Not two hours after I'd attended the final We Are Legion screening, I heard Occupy Austin pound past the bar where I was feeding a music jones. The hundreds of hollering protesters were too animated to ignore, and so I ditched my friends and hitched up to the horde. It turned out to be the best time I had all week, a sweaty, wild get-down fueled by fuck-the-man anthems from the likes of Dead Prez, and a simple motto adorning Occupy's mobile party pushcart: "You can dance in this revolution."
The group was headed toward Red River for a Tom Morello show; the former Rage Against the Machine member had invited all Occupiers to attend. A block away from the venue, Occupy ran into a roaring line of Latin drummers and, after hugs and high-fives were exchanged, they absorbed the band — along with a number of arm-flailing onlookers. I was already high off We Are Legion, and the pandemonium on Sixth Street intensified the buzz, as did the crush of Guy Fawkes masks and Anonymous-branded gear in the scrum.
Morello's street-side romp popped off in true Occupy fashion — police pulled the plug, protesters stood their ground, and the show raged on over the "people's mic." The Friday march was just a precursor to bigger Saturday actions, but even so, the Morello-led sing-along of "This Land Is Your Land" seemed to attract half of Austin.
Days before, Knappenberger said he has to eventually stop adding onto We Are Legion, but that it seems "like every time [there's] a major screening, something big happens." At this point, it looks like he might just have to make a sequel.
Follow Chris Faraone on Twitter @fara1. His book, 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, is on sale now.