2014 Film Descriptions

2014 Film Descriptions World Community Film Festival

Opening Night – SID    Project Heart ; Honouring Residential School Survivors 12 min. 2013

Carswell Productions     Director: Ed Carswell – Watch Film on VIMEO

Project Heart is the story of an extraordinary school event in Courtenay, BC. Teacher Susan Leslie leads a school-wide project and ceremony to honour Indian residential school survivors. Leslie organizes storytelling circles, art and inquiry projects, and encourages students to create ceremonial blankets. Verna Flanders shares her experiences as a survivor of St. Michael’s Residential School in Alert Bay, BC. Project Heart culminates with a moving school-wide Blanketing Ceremony to honour Verna and four other survivors. This film was inspired in part by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation events. 

Opening Night – SID

Sweet Dreams 84 min. 2012  www.sweetdreamsrwanda.com   Directors:  Lisa and Rob Fruchtman

Sweet Dreams  follows the story of Rwandan women empowering themselves, forming the first ever  female drumming troupe and an ice cream business; both were previously unheard of in Rwanda. This film focuses upon the hopes and challenges of a post-conflict society.  A group of  60 women pound out rhythms of power in the drumming group,  Ingoma Nshya (New Dreams).  For the women (orphans, widows, wives and children of perpetrators and victims alike) the group has been a place to begin to live again, to build new relationships and to heal the wounds of the past. The drumming, singing and dancing is pure joy; yet the struggle to survive and provide for their families still persists.

When the group decides to partner with two young American entrepreneurs and open Rwanda’s first ever ice cream shop, these remarkable Rwandan women embark on a journey of independence, peace and possibility. Sweet Dreams interweaves intimate, difficult  stories from the past with joyous and powerful music to present a moving portrait of a country in transition. Filmmaker, Lisa Fruchtman says “The film is about healing through art and enterprise.”  Best Documentary, Festival de Cine Mujer DOC; Audience Award, IDFA

GROW!    50 min. 2011    A film by Anthony-Masterson

Currently, the average age of farmers in North America is over 55, so it’s critical to encourage more young people to take up the plow. GROW! profiles a new crop of idealistic young farmers who have turned to the fields for a more fulfilling life, driven by a strong desire to grow and distribute food locally and in a more sustainable manner. To start farming, they often must borrow, rent or manage farmland in order to fulfill their dreams. Some begin as apprentices, working with experienced farmers to learn the basics before venturing out on their own. These new farmers speak of both the joys and the challenges involved in tending the land. The film provides inspiration to all viewers to support this new crop of sustainable farmers through the food choices we make every day. Best American Documentary, Rome International Film Festival ; Best Feature, Colorado Environmental Film Festival

Musicwood 80 min. 2013 SID  www.musicwoodthefilm.com   Director:  Maxine Trump

Musicwood is an adventure-filled journey with music at its heart. When owners of  the Taylor, Martin, and Gibson guitar companies learn that their Sitka Spruce supply from Alaska will be depleted in 10 years, they set aside their competing interests and form the Musicwood Coalition. Their mission is to negotiate with Native American loggers in the Tongass National Forest to change the way the forest is logged before it’s too late  to supply wood for acoustic guitars.  Musicwood is a culture clash of staggering proportions. Native Americans are distrustful of the white man telling them what to do. Enter Greenpeace, and soon all are battling over a forest that is the last of its kind on the planet.  As the tug-of-war over natural resources unfolds, acoustic virtuosos such as Kaki King, Yo La Tengo, The Antlers, and Steve Earle offer some of the most profound insights in the form of a soundtrack, which doubles as the heartbeat of this debate.

Last Chance 85 min. 2012  NFB   Director: Paul Emile d’Entremont

Last Chance  tells the compelling stories of five asylum seekers who flee their native countries of Jamaica, Colombia, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon to escape homophobic violence. They face hurdles integrating into Canada, fear deportation and anxiously await decisions that will change their lives forever.  The 1951 UN convention on refugees, signed by Canada, obliges us to the commitment we made that “we will not return someone to persecution”.  How well are we living up to that obligation?

We Women Warriors 84 min. 2012 LNS  www.wewomenwarriors.com   Director: Nicole Karsin

In Colombia’s war-torn indigenous villages, three brave women from distinct tribes use nonviolent resistance to defend their peoples’ survival. Warfare between the guerrillas, paramilitary groups, and armed forces imperils Colombia’s 102 aboriginal groups, dozens of which face extinction because of the conflict. Trapped in a protracted predicament that is fueled by the drug trade, native women are resourcefully leading and creating transformation imbued with hope. We Women Warriors bears witness to neglected human rights catastrophes and interweaves character-driven stories about female empowerment, unshakable courage, and faith in the endurance of indigenous culture.

Fire in the Blood   84 min. 2012   Kinetic Video  Director: Dylan Mohan Gray  Narrator: William Hurt

An intricate tale of ‘medicine, monopoly and malice’, Fire in the Blood tells the story of how Western pharmaceutical companies and governments aggressively blocked access to low-cost AIDS drugs for the countries of Africa  and the global south in the years after 1996, causing ten million or more unnecessary deaths. It also features the improbable group of people who fought back.

Shot on four continents, Fire in the Blood is the untold story of the remarkable coalition which came together to stop ‘the crime of the century’ and save millions of lives in the process.  This story is by no means over; the real fight for access to life-saving medicine is just beginning.

Hawaii: Message in the Waves 50 min. 2007     McNabb/Connolly     Directors: Tim Green & Rebecca Hosking

Hawaii: Message in the Waves  looks at some of the environmental challenges facing the people and wildlife of the Hawaiian Islands. These islands represent a microcosm of the planet.  Some of the formerly pristine beaches are now covered with plastic waste, an increasing and persistent threat.  With beautiful cinematography, this film tells the story of the animals that make the Hawaiian surf their home, and the remarkable people who work to protect them. Three young people; a free diver, a native Hawaiian and a surfer/musician are passionate about doing what they can to heal and protect the earth. The magnificent waves that crash on the beaches carry a message. It is becoming increasingly clear that the oceans, not just around Hawaii but the world over, are in peril.

Land Rush 59 min.  2012    www.whypoverty.net   Directors: Hugo Berkeley & Osvalde Lewat-Hallade

As food prices rise, agribusiness has started to move into Africa in search of big profits and stable food supplies.  Land Rush tells the story of a Malian farming community’s struggle to save itself from an onslaught of land-grabbing foreign agro-investors. From U.S. sugar cane growers to Chinese and Saudi Arabian producers, Mali is awash with foreign investors working hand-in-hand with the Malian government.  But peasant leaders are determined to protect the rights of small-scale subsistence farmers who stand to lose out in these deals.

The documentary follows American sugar developer, Mima Nedelcovych’s Sosumar scheme – a $600 million partnership between the government of Mali to lease 200-square kilometres of prime agricultural land for a plantation and a factory.   Many Malian peasants see this as yet another manifestation of imperialism. The scheme is highly controversial and a military coup changes everything.

Camera Woman 59 min. 2012   Women Make Movies   Director: Karima Zoubir

Working as a videographer at weddings in Casablanca, Khadija Harrad is part of the new generation of young, divorced Moroccan women seeking to realize their desires for freedom and independence while honouring their families’ wishes. Mother of an 11-year-old son and primary breadwinner for her parents and siblings, she navigates daily between the elaborate fantasy world of the parties she films and the  harassment from her traditionally conservative family, which disapproves of her occupation and wants her to remarry. Camera Woman, shot in vérité style, follows Khadija on the job, at home, and with supportive women friends who are divorced and share similar experiences. As it unveils the issues that confront working-class Muslim women in societies now undergoing profound change, this film  reveals that for Khadija, the camera becomes a liberating force. World View Award, IDFA

Seeds of Freedom 30 min. 2012 UNS  Gaia Foundation    Filmmaker:  Jess Phillimore

Seeds of Freedom charts the story of seed from its roots at the heart of traditional, diversity-rich farming systems across the world, to being transformed into a powerful commodity, used to monopolise the global food system.

The film highlights the extent to which the industrial agricultural system, and genetically modified (GM) seeds in particular, goes hand in hand with loss of biodiversity and related knowledge; the loss of cultural traditions and practices; the loss of livelihoods; and the loss of food sovereignty. Seeds of Freedom challenges the mantra, promoted by the pro-GM lobby, that large-scale, industrial agriculture is the only means by which we can feed the world. It shows how small-scale farmers feed 70% of the world, using less land and water.  They protect the soil, and their practices lead to more crop resilience as the climate changes.

Solar Mamas 60 min. 2012 UNS   www.whypoverty.net  Directors:  Mona Eldaief & Jehane Noujaim

Solar Mamas  is a film about the heroic efforts of one woman as she overcomes significant difficulties to become a solar engineer. The film follows Rafea, the second wife of a Bedouin in Jordan, who wants a better life for herself and her children. The Barefoot College takes uneducated women from poor communities around the world and trains them to become solar engineers to create power and jobs in their communities. The film shows their lives on the campus and how learning about electrical components and soldering without being able to read, write, or understand English is the easy part. Harder to negotiate is the pressure from Rafea’s patriarchal, unemployed husband who demands that she return home.

The Light Bulb Conspiracy 52 min. 2010   McNabb/Connolly   Director:  Cosima Dannortizer

The Light Bulb Conspiracy  uncovers how planned obsolescence has shaped our lives and economy since the 1920s when manufacturers deliberately started shortening the life of consumer products to increase demand. The film profiles several well-known historical advocates, including  Bernard London, who famously proposed ending the Great Depression by mandating planned obsolescence, and Brook Stevens, whose post-war ideas became the gospel of the 1950s and helped shape the throwaway consumer society of today.

The Light Bulb Conspiracy also looks at modern examples of planned obsolescence, including computer printers and the controversy over the inability to replace iPod batteries. Environmental consequences are seen most dramatically in massive amounts of electronic waste. The film also features a new generation of consumers, designers and business people who have started challenging planned obsolescence as an unsustainable economic driver.

STAND 46 min. 2013    b4apres Media    Filmmakers: Nicolas Teichrob & Anthony Bonello

STAND  is a surf and Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) film focused on the west coast of BC, and on what is at stake with the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker route.  The film follows expedition stand-up paddler, Norm Hann, as he travels the length of Haida Gwaii, a group of Bella Bella students building their own wooden SUPs, and West Coast surfer, Raph Bruhwiler.

With a pipeline proposal, some people talk about what will be gained, but shouldn’t we be asking, ‘What do we stand to lose?’ This film is a hauntingly beautiful examination of the people and culture of the Great Bear Rainforest and the lives of those committed to defending its fragile ecosystems and fjords, one paddle stroke at a time. Stunning cinematography! Best Film,Vancouver Festival of Ocean Films

The Tax-Free Tour  53 min. 2012  V-Pro   Director:  Marije Meerman

Where do multinationals pay taxes and how much? Gaining insight from international tax experts,  Meerman takes a look at tax havens, the people who live there and the ways they avoid taxes globally. Those schemes go by names like ‘Cayman Special’, ‘Double Irish’, and ‘Dutch Sandwich’. A financial world operates in the shadows surrounded by a high level of secrecy. While governments claim they cannot afford social programs, the super rich are using every possible loophole  to avoid paying their fair share.  The Tax Free Tour is an economic thriller mapping the systemic risk for governments and citizens alike.  Is this the price we have to pay for globalized capitalism?

More Than Honey 91 min. 2012     Eye Steel Films   Director: Markus Imhoof

Over the past 15 years, colonies of bees have been decimated throughout the world.  “Colony Collapse Disorder” is still spreading from beehive to beehive. We have good reason to be worried; many plant species, including our food crops, require bees for pollination. Should we blame pesticides or even medication used to combat them? What about parasites such as varroa mites or travelling stress?  So far, it looks as though a combination of all these factors may be implicated.  The camera flies from the US, where massive bee-factories-on-wheels travel by truck between fruit regions, to China, where the bees are gone and legions of  labourers  pollinate blossoms by hand. The film ends on a hopeful note with lessons about the importance of biodiversity. Exquisite cinematography of the bees  in flight and in their hives, reveals a fascinating and complex world.  Best Documentary, German Film Awards; Best Documentary, Santa Barbara Film Festival

Bear Witness 22 min. 2013   BearsForever.ca    A film by BC’s Coastal First Nations

Times have changed on the BC coast. With fewer fish and smaller trees, both animals and people are trying to adapt. For a large majority of British Columbians, killing bears for trophies no longer fits with modern values of stewardship and sustainability.  Across the province, 87% of citizens agree: it’s time to end the trophy hunt for bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. Even more, 92%, say hunters should respect First Nations laws and customs when on First Nations territory. Now nine First Nations on the coast have decided to take the lead.  Bear Witness gives first-hand accounts of some of the reasons.

When Bubbles Burst 92 min. 2012   Java Films    Director:  Hans Petter Moland

When Bubbles Burst  takes us from Norway out into the world to examine the mechanics behind economic bubbles and crashes, and to look at trends and visions for the future. In a globalized economy it becomes increasingly difficult for nations, companies and individuals to protect themselves from today’s extreme financial volatility. The economic “butterfly effect” makes us all equally vulnerable.

In this documentary we meet “the man in the street”, players in the global economic casino, thinkers and world-class economists. Together they give an unflinching account of today’s situation and draw fascinating historical parallels.  When Bubbles Burst is a “must-see” for anyone interested in the financial state of the world today.

The World Before Her 91 min. 2012    Kinosmith     Filmmaker Nisha Pahuja

In a Bombay hotel, 20 hand-picked contestants for the Miss India pageant arrive for a month-long beauty boot camp.  Winning the title means instant stardom, a lucrative career and, for some, freedom from the constraints of a patriarchal society.  Hindu fundamentalists view pageants as immoral and a symbol of  Westernization. We visit a camp for young girls run by the Durgha Vahini, the women’s wing of the militant fundamentalist movement. Through lectures and physical combat training, the girls learn how to fight against Islam, Christianity and Western influences by any means necessary.

The World Before Her  creates a lively, provocative portrait of the world’s largest democracy at a critical transitional moment. These young women represent opposing extremes but they share a common dream: to help shape the future of India. Best Canadian Feature, HotDocs

Re-Greening the Desert 50 min. 2012    V-Pro    Filmmakers: Rob van Hattum & John D. Liu

For more than 15 years, cameraman and ecologist John D. Liu has been working on his worldwide mission to green deserts and to restore biodiversity. It all started in 1995 when Liu filmed the Loess-plateau in China. He witnessed a local population which turned an area almost the same size as The Netherlands from a dry, exhausted wasteland into a green oasis. From that moment on, Liu has been travelling all over the world to convince and inspire government leaders, policy-makers and farmers with his film material and knowledge. Liu diligently spreads the message that permacultural restoration of ecosystems is not only possible, but also economically very meaningful.

Art From the Streets 73 min. 2009     Inferno Films    Director: Layton Blaylock

Art from the Streets  tells the story of a program for homeless people who are given the opportunity to produce art.  The volunteer program established in Austin Texas in 1991 provides a safe and nurturing environment for homeless people to be creative.  Art sessions are held twice a week culminating in an annual show where the artwork is sold.

The film tracks five of the artists over the course of a year. Viewers will visit homeless camps, learn the daily challenges of street life, and witness strengths of human character. The story ends with a two-day show and sale of the artists’ works, where they interact with people that they rarely have a chance to encounter in such a positive way.

Martha of the North 48 min. 2008    NFB     Margquise Lepage

In the mid 1950s, lured by false promises of a better life, Inuit families were displaced by the Canadian government and left to their own devices in the Far North.  This was part of a government plan to secure Arctic sovereignty.  In this icy desert realm, five year old Martha Flaherty and her family lived through one of Canadian history’s most sombre and little-known episodes.  Once again, the stories of survival are inspiring while illuminating the mistreatment of  First Nations people of Canada.

Trash Dance 68 min. 2012     www.trashdancemovie.com    Filmmaker: Andrew Garrison

Choreographer Allison Orr finds beauty and grace in garbage trucks, and in the unseen men and women who pick up our trash. Orr’s work challenges audiences to expand notions of dance and performance. The film follows Orr as she rides along with Austin, Texas sanitation workers on their daily routes to observe and later convince them to perform a most unlikely spectacle. On an abandoned airport runway, two dozen trash collectors and their trucks deliver — for one night only — a stunningly beautiful and moving performance in front of an audience of thousands.  This thoughtful, eloquent documentary illuminates the reality that all work matters and has dignity, no matter the invisibility of the labour. Audience Award, Silverdocs; Audience Award, Full Frame Film Festival; Special Jury Award, South By Southwest

After the Harvest; Fighting Hunger in the Coffeelands   22min. 2011 Optic Nerve Productions  Filmmaker: Brian Kimmel

Narrated by Susan Sarandon

Coffee farmers in Chiapas, Mexico greet the rainy months between May and September with a mix of hope and trepidation. Consistent rainfall is vital to their crops, but too much water makes their rural dirt roads impassable. The price of beans and corn goes up, just when income from the coffee harvest is depleted. These are “los meses flacos,” or the thin months, when families make ends meet by eating less, eating cheaper foods, and/or borrowing against their future. This film reinforces the fact that our choices for coffee purchase matter. Fair and direct trade makes a difference during the “thin months”.

Passive House; A Building Revolution 45 min. 2013    Institute for Community Solutions     Director: Faith Morgan

Every activist concerned about climate change and excessive energy consumption should know about the emerging passive house revolution. This film takes you on a journey through the most important development in building design, construction and retrofitting in a generation.

For 20 years the passive house standard has been quietly spreading across Europe. Now, leading-edge architects and builders are bringing this standard to the US and Canada in order to realize the benefits of creating buildings that use 80 percent less heating and cooling energy.  Lifecycle costs are less than any other “green” method of construction. Innovators, including architects, builders and home owners,  share their reasons for choosing to build a passive house or do a deep-energy retrofit on their own home.  These homes don’t require a furnace but remain comfortable year round even in cold climates.

Inocente 40 min. 2013    Shine Global Films   Directors: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

Inocente is both a timeless story about the transformative power of art and a timely snapshot of the new face of homelessness in America; children.   At 15, Inocente refuses to let her dream of becoming an artist be thwarted by her life as an undocumented immigrant  living homeless for the last nine years. Colour is her personal revolution and its extraordinary sweep on her canvases creates a world that looks nothing like her own world. Her  past is punctuated by a father deported for domestic abuse, an alcoholic and defeated mother of four and an endless shuffle  through San  Diego’s homeless shelters under threats of deportation.   Despite this history, Inocente envisions a world transformed. Her talent has finally been noticed, and she has an opportunity to put on her first art show. The hope in Inocente’s story proves that the hand she has been dealt does not define her; her dreams do. Numerous Awards including Best Short Documentary, 2013 Academy Awards

Closing Night – 8:00pm SID

Al Helm; MLK in Palestine   96 min.  2013   Clarity Films   Director Connie Field

The glorious strains of gospel music wash over the West Bank in Connie Field’s powerful new film. As the Palestinian National Theater and an African-American choir mount a touring play about Martin Luther King Jr., an impassioned cultural exchange ensues, new friendships are forged and attitudes are altered.  This dynamic and complex work elegantly displays the timeless inspiration of Martin Luther King’s struggle for human rights. It is a cinematic wonder that dives into the heart of the non-violent Palestinian struggle for self determination without polemics.   Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine is utterly unique. It shows artists meeting across worlds; it refracts the political situation through the lenses of theater.  It weaves together threads of suffering and courage, political activism and artistic creation. It shows the power of art and is, in itself, a “must-see” work of art.    Audience Award, Mill Valley Film Festival; Top 10 Audience Favourites, Vancouver Int’l Film Festival