Films of Struggle & Resistance

Amnesty International’s annual film festival returns to Whitehorse and Haines Junction this week, with a powerful lineup of feature documentaries. The festival plays December 2 and 3 in Whitehorse, and December 5 in Haines Junction.

Kicking off the festival at 7 p.m. Friday night is Korean-Brazilian director Iara Lee’s feature documentary, Cultures of Resistance.

This award-winning film takes viewers on a voyage around the world, in segments of about 10 minutes each, highlighting musical, dance and theatre performances in resistance to the wars and bloodshed that haunt each region.

We see Palestinian hip-hop artists, a Brazilian who turned an AK-47 assault rifle into a guitar, Iranian graffiti artists, a worldwide poetry convention, and archival footage of controversial Nigerian Afrobeat musician Fela Kuti.

Friday’s 9 p.m. film is The Pipe, a 2010 documentary directed by Risteard O Domhnaill.

It chronicles the struggles of farmers and fishermen off the west coast of Northern Ireland when Shell Oil Company discovered an undersea natural gas field in their area, and launched a land-grab to lay a pipeline for the gas.

When the local inhabitants decried the effects of the pipe on their environment, the Irish government sided with the oil multinational, deploying police in bloody pitched battles against them.

The Pipe won an Irish award for best documentary earlier this year, and was an official selection at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

Saturday’s schedule includes five documentaries running from 1 p.m. through the evening.

Justice for Sergei is a Netherlands-made feature, which recounts the tragic fate of Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow-based tax consultant to an American firm, who uncovered a swindle based on phony tax refunds worth millions of dollars, initiated and sanctioned at the highest levels of the Russian justice system.

When Magnitsky blew the whistle on the operation, he was sentenced for the fraud himself, and subsequently beaten to death in prison.

The Jungle Radio highlights the work of Nicaraguan womens’ movement activist Yamileth Chavarria, who initiated a radio station deep in the Central American jungle, to broadcast emergency messages after the region was devastated by a hurricane in 1998.

Her venture expanded into an on-air vehicle for denouncing the domestic and sexual violence endemic to the area, and the courts’ sluggish reluctance to prosecute the perpetrators.

When China Met Africa is a fascinating study of the increasingly dominant role China has come to play, as it progresses on its way to becoming the world’s dominant economic superpower.

Chronicling China’s relationship with Zambia, which is typical of its monetary and geopolitical outreach to Africa, the film documents how Chinese aid to developing countries has outstripped that of the western-backed World Bank.

Chinese generosity has its own payback, however, and the results are not always harmonious for local populations.

Blood in the Mobile is a German-Danish feature directed by Frank Piasecki Poulsen, detailing how warring militias profit from the mining operations in the Congo that process cassiterite. The mineral is one of the key components that go into the manufacture of cell phones.

The sale of cassiterite helps finance continuing atrocities committed by the Congolese army. These include abduction of children for labour and prostitution, unsafe mining conditions and exploitation of workers.

Children of War is the concluding Saturday film. It documents the post-war experiences of three of the 35,000 children kidnapped by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda, who were forced to commit murder and other atrocities against the country’s civilian population.

Their post-trauma rehabilitation and readjustment to normalcy is heartfully rendered in this powerful award-winning film.

The Haines Junction Monday showings feature Cultures of Resistance, as well as Pray the Devil Back to Hell, an account of the efforts of the Liberian womens’ movement that resulted in the ceasing of hostilities in that country’s decades-long civil war, and the eventual election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005 as Africa’s first female head of state.

Festival showings on Friday and Saturday are at the Old Fire Hall in Whitehorse. The Monday screenings are at the St. Elias Convention Centre in Haines Junction.

The full festival schedule is online at

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