DOXA fest rolls over that main­stream boo­gie

The Georgia Straight - - Doxa -

Our cover im­age this week comes from a pro­gram of Indige­nous and Inuit­themed short films called Re­think­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tion, but you might as well say that the project of the DOXA Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val is to re­think ev­ery­thing.

Be­gin­ning on Thurs­day (May 3) with The Rankin File: Legacy of a Rad­i­cal—a movie that pon­ders the Van­cou­ver that might have been if we hadn’t handed our city to the de­vel­op­ers—there isn’t too much on this year’s DOXA cal­en­dar that doesn’t take a dis­si­dent view of its sub­ject, whether it’s art, so­ci­ety, health, wealth, sex, race, war, cur­rent events, past events, fu­ture events, or the vi­tal mat­ter of restor­ing the real his­tory be­hind Linda Blair’s Roller Boo­gie. Think of it as the best de­con­di­tion­ing pro­gram go­ing.

Read on for our take on some of the most no­table ti­tles screen­ing over the next 11 days, and re­mem­ber to check Straight.com for even more re­views, news, and fea­tures, and www. dox­afes­ti­val.ca for the full sched­ule.

THE CLEAN­ERS (Ger­many/brazil) In of­fice spa­ces in Manila, dead-eyed work­ers make their way through a daily quota of images and videos uploaded to so­cial-me­dia ac­counts, delet­ing any­thing that ex­ceeds a hap­haz­ard set of stan­dards, trau­ma­tized in some cases by end­less images of child sex­ual abuse, snuff clips, and live-streamed sui­cides. Th­ese are your anony­mous con­tent mod­er­a­tors, out­sourced by Sil­i­con Val­ley gi­ants more in­vested in say­ing the right things than reck­on­ing with their ap­palling dere­lic­tion of ethics. On one level it’s a pa­rade of hu­mans who are in way over their heads, from Filipinos des­per­ate to avoid a life of scav­eng­ing land­fills to clue­less U.S. sen­a­tors point­lessly quizzing hardly less vac­u­ous Face­book, Google, and Twit­ter lawyers, ap­ply­ing phan­tom prin­ci­ples to po­lit­i­cally shaped false­hoods, achiev­ing noth­ing in the end be­sides the­atre. In the real world, we see Syr­i­ans and Ro­hingya among those who are failed—the word doesn’t re­ally do jus­tice—by a global “con­nec­tiv­ity” mis­cre­ation that none of us can pos­si­bly un­der­stand. In short: so­cial me­dia has pro­duced in­sol­u­ble prob­lems so in­con­ceiv­ably vast and com­pli­cated that they par­a­lyze the mind. Deep nau­sea aside, The Clean­ers is a very noble ef­fort to backspace us into re­al­ity. SFU, May 9 (6 p.m.); Vancity, May 11 (9:15 p.m.) > ADRIAN MACK

CO-CRE­ATORS: THE RAT QUEENS STORY

(Canada) Lo­cal film­maker Lon­nie Nadler stum­bled into a hell of a story when he started pro­fil­ing the two men be­hind Rat Queens, a fem­i­nist-friendly comic-book series that be­came an in­stant New York Times best­seller. The first half of this un­fussy doc is re­ally about the dif­fi­cul­ties, per­sonal or oth­er­wise, of main­tain­ing a cre­ative part­ner­ship, es­pe­cially when your stock is sky­rock­et­ing. Van­cou­ver­based writer Kur­tis Wiebe doesn’t con­ceal his frus­tra­tion when dead­lines are con­sis­tently blown by artist Roc Upchurch, work­ing in At­lanta. Mat­ters be­come con­sid­er­ably worse when Upchurch is charged with do­mes­tic bat­tery, leav­ing Wiebe to han­dle the fall­out and find a re­place­ment—as­sum­ing their fan base hasn’t com­pletely ditched. Ul­ti­mately, he floun­ders into a sticky sit­u­a­tion with another artist, alien­at­ing yet more read­ers and lead­ing to a trial by In­ter­net. High-strung and of­ten pulling on a cig­a­rette (plus, he’s a new dad), the barely 30 Wiebe is also, seem­ingly, a con­sti­tu­tion­ally hon­est guy, un­afraid to look bad or make plain his dis­com­fort with the film­mak­ing process. It’s hard not to like him, or to ig­nore the body lan­guage when he’s given a chance to air his side of the story. Twit­ter/ Face­book/in­sta­gram lynch mobs: take note. SFU, May 6 (8:30 p.m.); Vancity, May 13 (5 p.m.) > AM

DREAM­ING MURAKAMI (Den­mark) Haruki Murakami, the great builder of dream­worlds, is him­self an imag­i­nary crea­ture in this qui­etly en­gross­ing doc­u­men­tary by Copen­hagen’s Nitesh An­jaan. The famed Ja­panese nov­el­ist never ap­pears on cam­era here, and his voice is never heard, even though at one point it’s clear that he’s stand­ing mere feet out­side the frame. But the film isn’t di­rectly about Murakami. It’s about Mette Holm, the vet­eran Dan­ish trans­la­tor of his works, a cap­ti­vat­ing, enig­matic fig­ure in her own right. Holm is con­stantly chas­ing the dis­tant au­thor’s in­ten­tions while wrestling with the cross­cur­rents of two lan­guages so un­like as to constitute dif­fer­ent worlds. She lives in a kind of limbo of in­ter­pre­ta­tion, pass­ing back and forth be­tween realms just as Murakami’s sto­ries drift be­tween par­al­lel re­al­i­ties. If th­ese analo­gies aren’t clear enough, they’re driven home by com­puter-gen­er­ated im­agery of a six-foot-tall bipedal frog (yes, you heard right) from the pages of a Murakami short story, who ap­pears to pur­sue Holm as she moves through the labyrinth of Tokyo. It seems at once men­ac­ing, ab­surd, and pro­found. And, like the work of both au­thor and trans­la­tor, it em­bod­ies not only hazard and doubt, but also magic and the prom­ise of free­dom. Vancity, May 4 (6:45 p.m.); Cine­math­eque, May 13 (6:15 p.m.) > BRIAN LYNCH

GOLDEN DAWN GIRLS (Nor­way) Fol­low­ing the 2013 mur­der of an­tifas­cist rap­per Pav­los Fys­sas, three women from the in­ner cir­cle of Greece’s ul­tra-right-wing Golden Dawn busy them­selves with the func­tion­ing of the party when their lead­er­ship is thrown in jail, in­clud­ing most of the GD’S 18 elected MPS. Among this lit­tle cell of Pr–court­ing women is Ou­ra­nia, daugh­ter of troll-shaped party founder and pro­fes­sional rage queen Niko­laos Michalo­li­akos. Full credit goes to th­ese ladies for their prin­ci­pled stance on se­man­tics. We see GD goons trash­ing im­mi­grant mar­ket stalls, punch­ing les­bians on live TV, chant­ing about turn­ing com­mu­nists into soap, chit­ter­ing af­fec­tion­ately as their kids play with real guns, and blam­ing all their prob­lems on the In­ter­na­tional Jewish Con­spir­acy—but for God’s sake don’t call them Nazis! From the Em­bed­ded With Ex­trem­ists minis­eries cu­rated by jour­nal­ist Ge­off Dem­bicki, this must-see doc ends with a re­mark­able con­ver­sa­tion be­tween film­maker Hå­vard Bustnes and the Dis­ney-film-col­lect­ing, dog-lov­ing Burzum fan Ou­ra­nia. He tries to tease a smidgen of hu­man de­cency from be­neath all that “sa­cred re­sis­tance” garbage. The close reader might de­scribe her re­sponse as vul­ner­a­ble and sad. Haunt­ing, even. Vancity, May 8 (6:45 p.m.) > AM

LET­TER FROM MASANJIA (Canada) A dis­qui­et­ing ex­posé of China’s hu­man-rights abuses, lo­cal film­maker Leon Lee’s Let­ter From Masanjia be­gins in Da­m­as­cus, Ore­gon, where the dis­cov­ery of a des­per­ate note in­side a box of Kmart Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions brings to light the in­jus­tices tak­ing place at the no­to­ri­ous Masanjia labour camp. The au­thor of the mes­sage is re­vealed as Sun Yi, a Falun Gong mem­ber who was wrong­fully im­pris­oned and tor­tured at the fa­cil­ity, and is now com­mit­ted to un­cov­er­ing China’s cor­rupt po­lice state through clan­des­tine-cam­era footage. Lee’s de­ci­sion to have the dis­si­dent tell the bulk of his story through talk­ing-head seg­ments— and the oc­ca­sional black-and-white an­i­ma­tion—doesn’t prove the most com­pelling, but the per­se­ver­ance on show should leave view­ers in­spired to learn more. Vancity, May 5 (2 p.m.) > LUCY LAU

OUR NEW PRES­I­DENT (Usa/rus­sia) A wild and of­ten hi­lar­i­ous trawl through the sleazier ends of Rus­sian me­dia sen­sa­tion­al­ism dur­ing the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Our New Pres­i­dent is also so rad­i­cally de­con­tex­tu­al­ized as to be al­most worth­less, maybe even dan­ger­ous. Rus­sia ob­vi­ously has its own Glenn Becks and Youtube cra­zies, but other than the cheap yuks, what of it? Pan­der­ing to the new Mc­carthy­ism of the pseu­doleft with dol­lops of Evil Putin porn only clouds the film’s gonzo en­ter­tain­ment value, re­veal­ing its dan­ger­ous blind spots and ide­o­log­i­cal bent. It’s dou­bly ironic con­sid­er­ing we’re treated to the spec­ta­cle of a Rus­sia To­day em­ployee be­ing chided by the boss for ob­ject­ing to in­sti­tu­tional bias. The balls of this film! Sim­i­larly, it mocks the prob­a­bly mar­ginal Rus­sian be­lief that Hil­lary Clin­ton was cursed by an un­earthed Siberian mummy, but seems rea­son­ably com­fort­able hint­ing its sup­port of the no less de­ranged fan­tasy of Amer­i­can “democ­racy” sab­o­taged by das­tardly for­eign troll farms. Re­ally, be­sides the style of con­sent be­ing man­u­fac­tured here—at a time when war is a real pos­si­bil­ity—what’s the diff? Cine­math­eque, May 5 (6:45 p.m.); SFU, May 9 (8:30 p.m.) > AM

THE PAIN OF OTH­ERS (USA) The ti­tle is dou­ble-edged. Suf­fer­ers of Morgel­lons dis­ease must en­dure the near blan­ket skep­ti­cism of the med­i­cal com­mu­nity, but also pub­lic ridicule and iso­la­tion. The three peo­ple por­trayed in this heart­break­ing doc even­tu­ally ar­rive at a kind of on­to­log­i­cal col­lapse, vainly protest­ing their san­ity against a cli­mate of near uni­ver­sal oth­er­ing. Penny Lane’s new film wants to en­gen­der some com­pas­sion for th­ese women, us­ing only their own (bravely) doc­u­mented ex­pe­ri­ences on Youtube and a few news re­ports for con­text. The dis­ease it­self pro­duces le­sions and weird fi­bres that emerge from the skin (cue gross-out close-ups), along with the sense of in­fes­ta­tion by some­thing in­vis­i­ble. For the youngest of th­ese women, Tasha, we wit­ness a hor­ri­fy­ing phys­i­cal de­cline. If the con­di­tion is psy­cho­so­matic, as most ar­gue, it nonethe­less dev­as­tates its vic­tims, leav­ing one to won­der if Morgel­lons is just al­to­gether too strange and chal­leng­ing to be han­dled by ortho­dox sci­ence. Ad­mirably, The Pain of Oth­ers is built to tol­er­ate this and any other viewer in­quiry. Cine­math­eque, May 6 (8:45 p.m.); Vancity, May 8 (5 p.m.) > AM

PRIMAS (Canada/ar­gentina) Rocío and Al­dana are Ar­gen­tine cousins who both suf­fered ex­ten­sive vi­o­lence in their youth. Rocío was kid­napped, raped, and set on fire by an un­known as­sailant, while Al­dana’s fa­ther sub­jected her to sev­eral years of sex­ual abuse. They are bonded by their shared ex­pe­ri­ences of trauma, but also through the fa­mil­ial sup­port they re­ceive through­out their re­cov­ery. Di­rec­tor Laura Bari is re­vealed to be their aunt, lov­ingly re­ferred to by the cousins as “Aun­tie Mi­nou”. Bari films the girls’ ev­ery­day lives as they be­gin to un­earth painful, for­got­ten mem­o­ries. It is the deep trust felt be­tween the three that al­lows Rocío and Al­dana to cry openly in front of the cam­era while they retell th­ese events. The girls also learn to heal through their shared pas­sion for the the­atre and dance. They travel to Montreal to per­form. Dur­ing their per­for­mance, both girls draw upon their ex­pe­ri­ences, in­cor­po­rat­ing them into pow­er­ful mono­logues and chore­og­ra­phy. Through their im­mea­sur­able brav­ery, th­ese teens demon­strate that heal­ing starts from within and that self-dis­cov­ery is best ac­com­plished through the arts. Vancity, May 5 (7 p.m.) and May 7 (noon) > DANNIELLE PIPER

THE QUIET ZONE (Canada) The vast Green Bank Ra­dio Tele­scope is so sen­si­tive that it can de­tect the im­pact of a snowflake on the ground. It sits in­side the sig­nal-free Na­tional Ra­dio Quiet Zone in West Vir­ginia, and it’s here, like a sub­cul­ture that might have been dreamed up by Wil­liam Gib­son, that a com­mu­nity of ru­ral-liv­ing “elec­trose-nsi­tives” have nested, tak­ing refuge from a world in­creas­ingly bathed in Wi-fi sig­nals and all the other in­vis­i­ble noise of mod­ern life. As with Penny Lane’s The Pain of Oth­ers, the symp­toms of this mar­ginal con­di­tion sound ap­palling. “This is not a be­lief or an ide­ol­ogy,” says one res­i­dent, point­ing to a pho­to­graph of her­self, re­duced in the out­side world to a van­ish­ing 77 pounds by elec­tro­mag­netic hy­per­sen­si­tiv­ity. “This is real.” Oth­ers re­fer to the zone as the last safe place in the world. Oth­ers still pa­trol the area for stray sig­nals, some­times as small as an elec­tric heater found in a dog­house. Mind­ful­ness is a fash­ion­able idea right now, but what re­ally be­guiles about this mod­est film, aptly placed in­side DOXA’S Qui­etude series, is the in-the-mo­ment qual­ity that it some­how man­ages to trans­mit (not by ra­dio) to screen. Cine­math­eque, May 8 (8:45 p.m.); Vancity, May 9 (4:30 p.m.) > AM

RE­THINK­ING REP­RE­SEN­TA­TION: SHORTS PRO­GRAM

(Canada) The most im­me­di­ately sat­is­fy­ing of the three shorts in this Rated Y for Youth series en­try, “Three Thou­sand” uses archival footage and typ­i­cally in­no­va­tive NFB an­i­ma­tion to pro­duce a sort of hy­per­lu­cid recla­ma­tion of Inuit his­tory, which is then pro­jected into the fu­ture in its breath­tak­ing fi­nal mo­ments. Artist Asin­na­jaq is the cre­ator of this lit­tle gem, and she also graces the Straight’s cover this week in ap­pro­pri­ately spec­tral fash­ion. Of the two other con­tri­bu­tions, both very fine, “But­ter­fly Mon­u­ment” over­comes tech­ni­cal cru­dity in its ef­fort to memo­ri­al­ize teen ac­tivist Shan­nen Koost­achin, who went head-to-head in 2008 with Min­is­ter of In­dian Af­fairs Chuck Strahl to get a school built in At­tawapiskat be­fore los­ing her life in a car ac­ci­dent. And after last year’s The Road For­ward, Marie Cle­ments re­turns to ru­mi­nate on an early-20th-cen­tury eth­nol­o­gist-pho­tog­ra­pher with “Look­ing at Ed­ward Cur­tis”. His work, though prob­lem­atic, is given a fair hear­ing by the par­tic­i­pants, in­clud­ing mu­si­cian Ost­welve, in this frank, thought­ful, and very hand­some es­say. Vancity, May 9 (noon); SFU, May 11 (6 p.m.) > AM

ROLLER DREAMS (Aus­tralia/usa) A shooin for au­di­ence favourite, Roller Dreams delivers ec­static jolts of adren­a­line while retelling the never-end­ing story of Amer­ica’s war on the poor. From the late ’70s to the early ’90s, roller danc­ing was a phe­nom­e­non con­fined to a small patch of con­crete on Cal­i­for­nia’s pre­dom­i­nantly African-amer­i­can Venice Beach. Key peo­ple from the scene are still alive and talk­ing; they bore wit­ness to the fa­mil­iar as­sault on black street cul­ture first by Hol­ly­wood (the Linda Blair film Roller Boo­gie was the big­gest white­wash/cash-in), then by racist law en­force­ment and gen­tri­fi­ca­tion. By the time of the Rod­ney King beat­ing, a joy­ous sound­track of ’80s R&B and elec­tro had been re­placed with gangsta rap and the crack epi­demic. Says one par­tic­i­pant: “How did we get from the ’70s to ‘Bitch Betta Have My Money’? You want me to dance to this shit?” Ev­ery­one here is fas­ci­nat­ing (and the archival footage is killer), but all the drama and tragedy of Roller Dreams is dis­tilled into the story of the leo­nine Mr. Mad, who was ven­er­ated by all. His full-blown ge­nius on skates re­mains sus­pended be­tween a vi­o­lent child­hood in Watts and a present that finds him weep­ing for a mo­ment that was more than just lost: “It was taken.” Vancity, May 10 (6:15 p.m.) and May 13 (7:15 p.m.) > AM

THE THIRD OP­TION (Aus­tria) Un­com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tions must be had, in­clud­ing those fea­tured in this Aus­trian doc­u­men­tary. In an ef­fort to dis­cuss how so­ci­ety views dis­abil­i­ties and late ter­mi­na­tion of preg­nancy, The Third Op­tion in­cor­po­rates both the pro­fes­sional opin­ions and the per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences of those who study, carry out, and un­dergo pre­na­tal screen­ings. Film­maker Thomas Fürhap­ter does not show the faces of those who speak. In­stead, he over­lays their voices atop vi­su­als of chil­dren dis­play­ing in­cred­i­ble ath­letic skill jux­ta­posed with oth­ers liv­ing with dis­abil­ity. Through this tech­nique, the movie ac­com­plishes two things: it cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment where the viewer is dis­cour­aged from pro­ject­ing their feel­ings onto any par­tic­u­lar per­son, and it lim­its the pos­si­bil­ity that we will de­mo­nize or sanc­tify the film’s speak­ers. The Third Op­tion is, at times, raw and ex­cru­ci­at­ing to wit­ness. But by the end, we’re left with enough space to rec­on­cile our own per­spec­tives on this chal­leng­ing sub­ject. SFU, May 7 (6 p.m.); Vancity, May 9 (2:45 p.m.) > DP

From top left: Roller Dreams re­claims black his­tory; au­thor Kur­tis Wiebe deals with be­ing a Co-cre­ator; Mr. Putin bros down with Our New Pres­i­dent; and Golden Dawn Girls re­veal them­selves.

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