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Eugeneans Featured on Nat Geo ’90s Series

WTO riots in Seattle. Photo: J. Narrin.
WTO riots in Seattle. Photo: J. Narrin.

Vanilla Ice, Rob Lowe, Courtney Love: The list of 1990s icons interviewed for National Geographic Channel’s three-night series The ’90s: The Last Great Decade? is as quirky and odd as that peculiar era of jelly shoes and grunge. The episodes — which will be seen in 171 countries and aired in 45 languages — also include local videographer Tim Lewis and former Eugenean Tim Ream as well as footage from their documentary of the Seattle World Trade Organization riots, Breaking the Spell: Anarchists, Eugene and the WTO.

Lewis says the series, which airs starting Sunday, July 6, handles the footage of the controversial 1999 WTO protests “really well,” instead of trying to demonize the protesters and anarchists and blame Eugene. Media at the time laid much of the blame for the riots on Eugene and its “black bloc” anarchists.

Lewis says Nat Geo saw the footage in Breaking the Spell, possibly as a result of the Oscar-nominated documentary If a Tree Falls in which Lewis appears, and flew him down to San Francisco for interviews. Breaking the Spell, available from CrimethInc.com, chronicles the protests from the streets in the middle of the night-and-day action of “The Battle in Seattle,” as well as interviews and footage from Eugene. 

Nat Geo “didn’t make the anarchists look evil,” Lewis says. He and Ream also collaborated on an earlier film, Pickaxe, which documents the yearlong Warner Creek forest protests outside Oakridge that involved many of those activists who went on to protest in Seattle. 

Lewis is currently at work on a documentary about the mining of Parvin Butte in Dexter. He says that All About Parvin: Voices from a Lost Valley will start coming out this fall as a series. In addition to documenting the destruction of the scenic butte up until now, it will “parallel the action” of the ongoing controversy rather than come out three or four years later as typical documentaries do.

The ’90s will also feature sections on the rise of Nirvana, the dot-com bubble, Viagra and the Clinton “sex scandal.” Go to channel.nationalgeographic.com for more information.