DOXA Documentary Film Festival 2016

As the city of Vancouver presents its 15th annual DOXA Film Festival, hear what important leaders have to say about the value of this resource and the role it plays in our lives:

“The Government of Canada places great value on culture and the arts, and we are committed to supporting our artists and creators as they bring our culture to life and tell our stories. Documentary filmmaking offers an outstanding means of sharing these stories…” The Honourable Melanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage

“Documentary filmmaking is an important artistic practice that educates, entertains and inspires.” Merla Beckerman, Chair, BC Arts Council

“Film plays an indispensable role in bringing new issues, concerns and human experiences to the public’s attention. By viewing our issues on screen, we open the door to education and dialogue…” Gregor Robertson, Mayor, City of Vancouver

This year I managed to view eight films of the almost one hundred that were available. Please enjoy my summaries and I hope it wets your appetite to seek them out and watch them yourself. I would also encourage you to set aside some time next year to enjoy DOXA firsthand. Enjoying a premier screening in person and often having the producer, director or even some of the actors on hand to answer questions is a wonderful experience and a great way to learn.

Reserve 107 – This was one of my favorites this year. This film highlights one of the century old injustices that have resulted from treaties that are not being honored. The difference with this Laird Saskatchewan community is that the Chippewayan Band and the local Mennonites and Lutherans are working together to find a solution. A wonderful example of how conflict can be resolved in a civil, relationship-building way. The beautiful photography combined with a well told story is a must see, as well as a good history lesson. Check out the film’s website for more information, which also contains a free study guide that can be used to teach and educate others about this very important issue. According to the director, Brad Leitch (picture above), this film will be available for distribution soon — an exciting opportunity for you to bring this to your community.

Red Path – One of the short films (15 mins) featuring the First Nations people, this documentary follows a young man from Atikamekw Nation. After the early death of his mother and foster care, we are blessed to see how dancing and the power of a Pow Wow helps him reconnect to his culture.

The Re-naming of PKOLS – Another short (4 mins) we get to witness the importance of renaming sacred territories in order to honor the First Nations ancestors and their history.

Nowhere Land – If you are one of the many Canadians who are judgemental or critical of the First Nations people, especially in the area of substance abuse, this is a film for you. Only 15 minutes long, the producer does an excellent job of bringing us into the life and struggles of the people after they have been displaced from their land. While the government uses financial enticement to encourage the move, I love what one of the First Nations people has to say about that in the film: “It’s not a lot of money, it’s money for now”. So well put and a lesson for us all in our pursuit of happiness.

We Call Them Intruders – This film focuses on the Canadian Mining industry and the negative impact it has on the communities in which they mine. Set in Eastern and Southern Africa, the filmmaker talks to local residents and government officials about their experiences. I have mixed feelings about this documentary. Although I have a heart for the local people and the injustices that occur, I did not think this particular film provided any balance in their argument. As a former member of my high school debating team, I personally enjoy an argument much better when both sides are represented.

Common Notions: Handbook Not Required – Located in Vancouver, the Purple Thistle was an alternative school that operated for almost 15 years. This film used the Thistle to illustrate the advantages of re-imagining our current systems of education and the youth liberation movement. I really enjoyed hearing the personal stories of so many young people having a positive experience of learning, especially in my line of work where I am often helping parents drag their kids across the high school finish line. I hope this film inspires educators and youth to continue to seek out new and different ways to keep young people educated and healthy. The Thistle shows us that both are possible, even in more high risk cases.

In Pursuit of Silence – I loved this documentary!! A must see in our noisy, busy world in which we live in today. The film did a wonderful job of educating the audience on acceptable levels of noise decibels and the very strong impact that noise pollution has on us when those levels are not met. Sound affects us physiologically, psychologically, cognitively and behaviorally. Silence returns us to what is real and the resting place of everything essential. In silence, there are no selfish desires or thoughts of personal gain (the imposition of our own egos on the world). For these reasons, and the fact that digital connectivity takes us out of ourselves, I would encourage you to see this film and start practicing some daily times of silence in your own life. As the film so aptly says, “It is a journey into the wilderness; into the heart of our being”.

Raising the Words – Another short film (14 mins), Chloe Ellingson does a great job of interviewing First Nations people who are doing what they can to save their endangered Mohawk language. Language revitalization is a problem that occurs in other parts of the world as well, such as Norway or with the Welsh. In this film, we were able to experience firsthand how in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory (outside of Toronto) they are revitalizing and reclaiming their traditional language. As an audience we were also able to interact with them via Skype after the screening! Again, I will encourage you to attend Doxa yourself next year so you too can have these unique experiences.