Many thanks to Warren Wulff, West Fraser Valley Area Council Education Coordinator, for putting together a list of upcoming labour, indigenous and environmental documentaries at the Vancouver International Film Fest that PSAC members might be interested in. Scroll Down!
Inside a massive textile factory near Surat, the economic capital of India’s Gujarat state, shirtless workers toil alongside the myriad machines needed to produce dyes and fabrics, many of which will be exported to the West. Working 12-hour shifts, these men earn the equivalent of $3 per day, an amount that is guaranteed to keep them in poverty… Director Rahul Jain, who made this film while a student at CalArts, doesn’t use voiceover to explain or music to dramatize. Instead, his pointedly political and visually mesmerizing documentary gives voice to the workers themselves, some of whom appear grateful for any kind of wage, while capturing the paradoxical beauty of the machines, both human and man-made, at work. In doing so, he has made a film where the political and the aesthetic cohere in ways rarely seen onscreen.
"Organic" has become such a garden variety term that few us give much thought to how this movement might’ve originated. Consequently, Mark Kitchell’s insightful documentary makes for engrossing—and for some viewers , wonderfully nostalgic—viewing as it retraces the first steps of the motley, rebellious pioneers who thumbed their noses at chemical farming and set in motion a wave of change. Much more than just backstory, however, Evolution is essential viewing thanks to the glimpses it offers of the sustainable alternatives waiting on the horizon. Frances McDormand brings a light touch as narrator, taking us chapter by chapter from sun-drenched 1960s counter-culture to a future—if we guide or support it—that is sustainable and delicious. Yes, this film is American in focus, but how often do we get to meet the industry leaders who stock our shelves? If it’s galling that so much of our produce comes from California, can we do something about that?
Over 15 years, Travis Wilkerson has doggedly pursued a form of radically political filmmaking that excoriates the structures of American power, but never before has he made a film this personal, locating the sickness of whiteness within his own family history. Wilkerson narrates the story of two families, one white and one black, and it’s one hell of a story. The filmmaker’s great-grandfather, S.E. Branch, shot a man named Bill Spann one Alabama night in 1946 and never served a day in prison. Wilkerson frames his masterful film as a mystery investigation into this family secret, returning to his hometown to uncover the truth. On the way, the road diverts to an oral history of Southern racism, amounting to a ghost chronicle of haunted places where time has stood still.
Radical filmmaking demands radical aesthetics, and Wilkerson, delivering the angry voiceover himself, mostly films his landscapes and interview scenes in stark black and white, deviating for lengthy travelling shots painted in red, camera pointed out the front window of his car, as he drives the Alabama highways on a search that comes to threaten his own safety. Spann’s life and death are shown to be typical among Southern blacks in the 1940s, but as with all good historical inquiries, Wilkerson’s powerful film speaks volumes to the present—and demands that we never forget.
We live our lives on land that was never ceded or sold by those who were living here at "first contact" and yet we know precious little about the Lower Mainland before real estate. People often think of Vancouver as a new city, when in fact this region has been occupied for 9,000 years. This film aims to correct that with a meaningful reminder of the history and prehistory of this land and her first people.
Located in the area now known as Marpole in Vancouver, c̓əsnaʔəm was first occupied almost 5,000 years ago and became one of the largest of the Musqueam people’s ancient village sites. Generations of families lived at what was then the mouth of the Fraser River, harvesting the rich resources of the delta. Today, intersecting railway lines, roads, and bridges to Richmond and YVR obscure the heart of Musqueam’s traditional territory, yet c̓əsnaʔəm’s importance to the Musqueam community remains undiminished. VIFF alumnus Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, in collaboration with the Musqueam First Nation and the UBC Museum of Anthropology’s curatorial team, shares an important and well-researched reflection on a time when BC was indeed super and natural.
Advertising is no longer the arcane territory of a few well-lubricated characters with narrow lapels and even narrower views on the status of women. The inspired creative leaps of slick Mad Men have been replaced in the digital age by precise, targeted modelling rooted in insidious and pervasive computer surveillance. It’s the work of Math Men, if you will. As traditional advertising streams are vaporized, the need to identify and reach potential consumers becomes overwhelming for a business to stay in business. A staggering amount of information must be compiled and manipulated. Data collected is often extremely personal information used to design advertising specifically tailored for you. Not only that, it can predict and systematically influence you at the precise moment you are most ready to spend.
Scott Harper documents this pivotal shift and introduces us to some extremely aware kids that give us hope for an informed future as well as corporate execs who proudly let us know how much they already know about us. You may want to go home and put some tape over the camera on your computer after seeing this rather chilling film.
Memory of the Peace (Short film)
Three Fort St. John residents navigate the cyclical forces of industry, resource extraction and colonization that have shaped Canada.
February 2010: as Canada battles the United States for men’s hockey supremacy at the Winter Olympics, a handful of engrossing, life-and-death dramas unfold in the back alleys, seedy bars and SROs of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Filmmaker Wayne Wapeemukwa invites some of the city’s marginalized citizens to step into starring roles (including Angel Gates, who’s proven a magnetic screen presence in the director’s short films, and Ms. Rollergirl, who’s served as self-appointed crossing guard at many a Vancouver intersection) and he shines an interrogation room lamp on the urban realities we’re often too eager to avert our eyes from. In the process he crafts a discordant city symphony that charts Vancouver’s complexities. An unflinching portrait of "glib patriotism" run amok on unceded territory, Luk’Luk’I is provocative and dazzling in turn.
The Romanian mining town of Petrila, population 21,000, is about to see its mine shut down, its last group of miners laid off and the mine’s buildings demolished. The town, which owes its very existence to the mine, has become the victim of an EU eco-directive, and politicians, both local and national, are decidedly uninterested in upsetting anyone in Brussels by protesting. Enter former-miner-turned-anarchic-artist Ion Barbu, an energetic surrealist determined to save the mine and its related buildings, insisting that they are part of the town’s cultural heritage. Barbu is an aesthetic magpie who draws on artistic traditions high and low to mock the authorities and fight for his ideals: he paints the buildings in vibrant colours—a cylindrical structure is made to resemble a Warhol soup can—engages the townsfolk in Dada-esque fashion parades, puts on underground theatre performances and, by including everyone from young hipsters to pensioners to the miners themselves, re-builds a sense of community. Contrasted with Barbu’s manic charm is the calm, dignified manner of Cătălin Cenuşă, the leader of the last remaining unit of miners, who smashes any pre-conceived or stereotypical notions of what a miner should be…
Mixing anger, comedy and empathy in equal measures, Andrei Dăscălescu’s superb documentary revels in the power of art to unite people in common cause and does so with a visual palette and sense of style perfectly in keeping with his main protagonist’s absurdist worldview.
Vital documentarian and indigenous activist Alanis Obomsawin (Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance) has created yet another film of defiance and resilience. After the rigorous, Wiseman-like We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice (VIFF 16), a nearly three-hour opus documenting the judicial suit that sought equal education rights for children living on reserves, Obomsawin deploys a different tone and approach in this, her 50th film.
Focusing her camera on a small community more than 450 kilometres away from Winnipeg in the Norway House Cree Nation, she examines their unique approach to education and collective efforts towards healing. In turn, she suggests that the increased opportunities presented to the community’s bright-eyed youths are the outcome of previous generations’ defiance of institutionalized oppression. Now in her 85th year, the NFB’s most renowned nonfiction filmmaker delivers a history of the work that has been done and a harbinger for the efforts and activism still required to correct years of injustice.
Vancouver director Boris Ivanov brings us this engaging and timely tour d’horizon of the oligarchic gangster-state that is Russia and her intimidating place in the world today. At the time of this writing, the depth of the influence of Vladimir Putin and his minions on the 2016 US election has not been fully revealed, but all indications are that it was profound and effective. Through Ivanov’s eyes we observe the wounded pride of Russians as the Soviet Empire crumbles, the privatization of massive national industries and the new social order that then comes into being. The jingoistic xenophobia born out of an increased dependence on foreign investment makes patriotic heroes and billionaires of ruthless but homegrown moguls. Masterful propaganda and demonization of the "other" result in institutionalized racism and an entrenched culture of disdain for the West, which is not diminished by the buffoonery of the Trump administration. Ivanov’s deep Russian roots inform his documentary as he brings us up to speed on the shameful adoption crisis, state-sanctioned hacking of the Internet and the heartless treatment of LGBTQ citizens.
American Psychosis (Short Film)
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author and activist Chris Hedges discusses modern-day consumerism, totalitarian corporate power and living in a culture dominated by pervasive illusion. An incredibly succinct analysis of society on the edge of collapse from the writer of War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists, this is an illuminating and frightening view of the possible future in these trumped-up times.
"The risks of speaking truth to power are brought into sharp relief in Brian Knappenberger's timely and cautionary tale of money, media, and the high cost of free speech. The trial between Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media pitted privacy rights against freedom of the press, and raised important questions about how Big Money can silence media. This film is an examination of the perils and duties of the free press in an age of inequality."
Thanks again Warren!