Amnesty Films at Old Fire Hall

Amnesty International brings its annual film festival to Whitehorse this weekend, featuring an amazing array of films dealing with themes of social justice at the Old Fire Hall.

This year Amnesty is cooperating with the Yukon Film Society and the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, with one of its best lineups ever.

Sure to be extremely popular with audiences is The Yes Men Fix The World. The Yes Men are Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos, who have become notorious for posing as corporate executives, holding fake press conferences or staging elaborate hoaxes, usually to embarrass a major corporation or conglomerate.

In 2004, for instance, the duo pretended to be Dow Corporation executives, and announced that they were liquidating the Union Carbide company. They claimed they would set up a $12 billion dollar fund with the proceeds, for the victims of the company’s 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India that killed some 1,770 people.

Dow’s stock plummeted by $2 billion after the BBC was taken in and aired the false press conference.

In another ruse in November 2008, the pair arranged to have 100,000 bogus editions of the New York Times printed up and distributed free on street corners and subways.

The banner headline for the issue was that the war in Iraq had ended. An accompanying front page item declared that George Bush had been indicted for war crimes. Another item declared that legislation for a national health care plan in the US had been passed.

Canada has felt the brunt of the Yes Men’s guerrilla tactics on more than one occasion. The most recent was during last year’s Copenhagen climate change conference, when they issued a statement, purportedly from environment minister Jim Prentice, that Canada would cut carbon emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. Prentice was highly embarrassed by the news, and had to issue an uncomfortable retraction.

Hugh Brody, whose 1982 book Maps And Dreams chronicled the lives of northwestern BC First Nations living in the path of the proposed pipeline, is the director of another Amnesty festival film, The Meaning of Life.

Over the space of two years, Brody interviewed more than a dozen inmates of a special prison that embodies First Nations culture, healing and traditional teachings to effect personal rehabilitation and a path toward redemption for its population of long-term prisoners. The prison is managed by representatives of BC’s Chehalis First Nation, in cooperation with Correctional Services Canada.

Poor No More is a new feature documentary, hosted by Mary Walsh of CBC-TV’s This Hour Has 22 Minute. Its $550,000 budget was raised through donations from some 50 contributors, ranging from churches to trade unions and social justice committees. It examines the lives of a number of Canadians who fall below the poverty line although they’re working full-time.

A typical example is Vicki Baier, who has worked in a government owned Liquor Board of Ontario (LCBO) outlet for a dozen years, but is entitled to no benefits because she’s an auxiliary employee. When her daughter needs a kidney transplant, and again when she herself is diagnosed with breast cancer, she has to take the time off with no pay.

The directors contrast her situation with workers in Sweden, where affordable housing, universal access to post-secondary education and free childcare are the norm.

The film’s executive director, David Langille, is co-chair of the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice. He will be on hand to introduce the film and discuss its implications for an effective poverty-reduction strategy.

There is a host of other exciting documentaries at Amnesty’s festival, exploring social justice themes from Chile to Liberia and points in between. For a full listing, go to Amnesty’s Facebook page: Whitehorse Amnesty International Film Festival 2010, or the Yukon Film Society’s news page:

The festival runs from November 26 to 28 at the Old Fire Hall.

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