Above All Else is an intimate portrait of a group of landowners and activists in East Texas who take peaceful direct action to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a multi-billion dollar project slated to carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. What begins as a stand against corporate bullying becomes a rallying cry for climate protesters nationwide. Risking financial ruin, their personal safety and the security of their fasmilies, these unforgettable people and their stories become an exploration of the human spirit and a window into how social change happens. As Canadians begin to stand in the way of massive pipeline developments, this film is inspiring, dramatic, and very timely. Best North American Documentary, Global Visions Film Festival; Special Jury Prize, Dallas International Film Festival.
Alive Inside is a joyous cinematic exploration of music’s capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity. Filmmaker Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the US who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. His camera reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription medication falls short. Social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Rossato-Bennett visits family members who have witnessed the miraculous effects of personalized music on their loved ones, and offers illuminating interviews with experts, including renowned neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks and musician Bobby McFerrin.
Audience Award, Sundance
Grace Lee Boggs is a 99-year-old Chinese American writer, activist, and philosopher. Rooted for more than 70 years in the African American movement, she has devoted her life to an evolving revolution that encompasses the contradictions of America’s past and its potentially radical future. Grace’s lifetime of vital thinking and action traverses major U.S. social movements of the last century; from labour to civil rights, to Black Power, feminism, the Asian American and environmental justice movements and beyond. Angela Davis, Bill Moyers, Danny Glover and others help shape this story. “Revolution”, Boggs says, “is about the ability to transform oneself to transform the world”.
**Best Feature, Toronto Asian Film Festival & Woodstock Festival; Audience Award,Wisconsin Film Festival **
Joy and persistence triumph over adversity in this award-winning documentary about a diverse group of people from across North America who come together in a camp every year to make a movie. On this occasion, it will be a Western called Bulletproof and the entire point is that it should be fun regardless of the challenges each person faces.
Barnett’s documentary brings us face to face with our prejudices and misunderstandings. This is not the story of someone else who may have a disability; it is our story of who we are or may become. Becoming Bulletproof is a film about striving to live fully through artistic endeavour and raises important questions about the exclusion and marginalization of people with different abilities. This life-affirming film has much to teach us about embracing the great diversity of humanity.
Best Documentary, Hollywood Film Festival ; Audience Choice Award, Heartland Film Festival
A father’s search to find the healthiest building materials leads him to the completion of the first hemp house in the US. Hemp with lime, hempcrete, is a non-toxic, energy efficient, mildew, fire and pest resistant building material. Although it is grown in 31 countries, growing hemp remains off-limits to almost all U.S. farmers. Industrial hemp is a non-psychoactive plant that provides the raw materials for thousands of sustainable products which can improve nutrition, stop deforestation and offer hope in a time of global warming. Bringing it Home tells the story of hemp, past, present and future, and a global industry that includes textiles, building materials, food products, bio-plastics, auto parts and more.
Jury Award, Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival; Director’s’ Choice Award & Best Environmental Film, Sedona International Film Festival
The film follows two North American coffee roasters on a journey across Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua to listen to the stories of the people who grow their coffee. On the way they meet with soldiers who have become growers, powerful women who are controlling their own destinies and many small-scale farmers joining together to form cooperatives. This film serves as a starting point to educate coffee drinkers about the basics of fair trade, cooperatives, social justice, shade grown, organic, the conflict in fair trade and the new challenges of dealing with coffee rust. In the context of historical injustices of global politics and international trade, the film asks some tough questions.
This powerful film odyssey across the US explores the sea change in attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Dam removal has gained acceptability. Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds after decades without access. Diverse interests are coming together to find more cost-effective options to meet power, shipping, irrigation and other needs. Restoring rivers helps to preserve tribal customs, recover fish stocks, revitalize waterfronts, improve recreational opportunities and render watersheds more resilient to climate change. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature.
Audience Choice, South by Southwest Festival; Audience Award, Mountain Films in Telluride
The Gwa’sala and the ‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nations people lived as two distinct groups along BC’s northwest coast. In 1964, for ease of administration, the Canadian Government forcibly relocated them from their traditional territories along Queen Charlotte Strait–Smith Inlet, Seymour Inlet and Blunden Harbour–to the Tsulquate reserve near Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. Crowded into only a few houses with no potable water, they couldn’t even retrieve their possessions. When they returned to their villages to do so, they found their homes had been burned to the ground.
Candid and moving interviews, striking archival footage–including their early contact with Franz Boas and Edward Curtis–and a visit to their stunning homelands portray a journey of healing. How A People Live brings to life the story of a people known for their theatrical dances, strong connection to the land, and the strength that enabled them to overcome incredible hardships–disease, Indian Residential schools and the destruction of their villages. This is a powerful story about a people’s reconnection with their land and culture and a journey of healing and rejuvenation of their communi
We all love food, so how could we possibly be throwing away nearly half of it? Filmmakers Jen and Grant dive into the issue of waste from farm and retail, all the way to the back of their own fridge. After catching a glimpse of the billions of dollars of good food that is tossed each year in North America, they pledge to quit grocery shopping cold turkey and survive only on foods that would otherwise be thrown away. In a nation where one in 10 people is food insecure, the images they capture of squandered groceries are both shocking and strangely compelling. As Grant’s addictive personality turns full tilt towards food rescue, the ‘thrill of the find’ has unexpected consequences. Just Eat It looks at our obsession with “best before” dates, perfect produce and portion sizes, and reveals the core of this issue that is having devastating consequences around the globe. Just Eat It is equal parts education and delicious entertainment.
Impact Award,Vancouver Int’l Film Festival; Emerging Director Award, Hot Docs; People’s Choice, Calgary Int’l Film Festival
The film tells stories about the political machinations of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to influence US politicians to pass laws in line with their extreme Libertarian ideology, often with heartbreaking consequences for others. Koch-founded groups masquerading as grassroots organizations (“astroturf groups”) have poured millions of dollars into campaigns targeting the Environmental Protection Agency. They have financial interests in the tar sands and generously fund right wing think tanks such as the Fraser Institute and climate change deniers. Tactics include voter suppression. In spite of this, some people have fought back and defeated candidates funded by this diabolical duo.
If Colombia is the focal point of the new global gold rush, then Marmato, a mining town with over 500 years of mining history, is the new frontier. Gold, estimated to be worth 20 billion dollars, is being mined in traditional ways by the locals who risk their lives daily in return for modest salaries from local businessmen. When the Colombian government opens the mining industry to foreign investment in 2006, hopes are high for more lucrative employment. It doesn’t take long for disillusionment to set in as a Canadian company, Medoro, promptly buys up 88% of the mines in the area and initiates an allegedly “eco-friendly” open-pit mining scheme that entails mass relocation of homes and, eventually, extensive layoffs. Filmed over six years, Marmato is a beautifully shot portrait of the lives of some of the miners who confront and defy Medoro.
Tarachansky grew up in Israel’s largest settlement, Ariel. When the second Intifadah broke out in 2000 her family moved to Canada where, for the first time, she met Palestinians and heard their stories. In this film, Tarachansky looks at Israelis’ collective amnesia of the fateful events of 1948 when the state of Israel was born and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians became refugees. She follows the transformation of Israeli veterans as they uncover repressed memories of the war that changed the region forever. Tarachansky then turns the camera on herself and travels back to her settlement where that historical erasure gave birth to a new generation, blind and isolated from its surroundings. In 2009 the Israeli government proposed a law that forbade mourning this history. Attempting to shed a light on the country’s biggest taboo, she is met with outrage and violence.
Indie Fest Film Award; International Independent Film Award
An oyster farmer, a writer and an ocean scientist share their thoughts about a coastal way of life under threat, where stories from our past give the inspiration to face the challenges of the future. Twenty-two cinematographers contribute beautiful imagery from deep-sea submarines, advanced ocean research vessels and drone cameras, to expose the changes our coastal waters face. Do we have the wisdom and resilience required to understand ocean change before time runs out?
This feature film examines its own genre, the documentary, which has often been called Canada’s national art form. Released in the year of the NFB’s 75th birthday, Shameless Propaganda is filmmaker Robert Lower’s take on the boldest and most compelling propaganda effort in our history (1939-1945) in which founding NFB Commissioner John Grierson saw the documentary as a “hammer to shape society”. The films produced until 1945 by the NFB are distilled here for the essence of their message to Canadians. Using only these films and still photos from that era, Lower recreates the picture of Canada they gave us and looks for the Canada we know today. What he finds is by turns enlightening, entertaining and unexpectedly disturbing.
Soft Vengeance is an inspiring film about Albie Sachs, a lawyer, writer, art lover and freedom fighter. For his actions as a lawyer defending anti-apartheid activists in South Africa, he was imprisoned in solitary confinement, tortured and forced into exile. In 1988 he was blown up by a car bomb set by the South African security forces in Mozambique, which cost him his right arm and the sight of one eye. As he was recovering, he received a note reading “Don’t worry, comrade Albie, we will avenge you.” He wondered what kind of country it would be if it were filled with people who were blind and without arms. “If we achieve democracy, freedom and the rule of law, that will be my soft vengeance” he mused. Following the release of Nelson Mandela, Albie helped write the new constitution and was then appointed as one of the first 11 judges to the new Constitutional Court set up to guarantee the implementation of the fundamental rights for which they had been fighting.
This moving documentary shines a light on the urgent need to provide better protection for the human rights of African grandmothers, the primary caregivers for a large number of children left orphaned and vulnerable by HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The Chinese make everything and the Malagasy fix everything.” The people of Madagascar pride themselves on producing things out of nothing; tires transformed into shoes, oil lamps made out of light bulbs, wheelbarrows fashioned from scrap metal. You see ingenuity, not underdevelopment, in their practices. A return to a conservationist lifestyle that encourages recycling, fraternity and self-reliance makes perfect sense. Will the world pay attention? Filmmaker Nantenaina Lova venerates the family business, the clever artisan, the resourceful craftspeople and those who possess the ability to create using everyday objects. The Malagasy Way is a poetic, music-filled and proverb-packed lesson in creativity and resistance.
The Revoluntionary Optimists draws us into the world of two 11-year olds with no access to clean drinking water, a girl forced to labour in a brick-making operation, and a teenage dancer on the precipice of accepting early marriage to escape from her abusive family. Lawyer turned change-agent, Amlan Ganguly, does more than simply rescue children living in Calcutta’s slums. He empowers them to transform their own neighbourhoods and lives as they organize to get clean water, go to school, reduce malaria infections and learn to dance.
Andean farmers eloquently express their feelings towards their seeds which they have been nurturing for several thousand years. They also share what they think of GMOs. As one campesina says, “Seeds have perennial, eternal life, we sow them for food year after year but we retain some to keep life going on endlessly. GMOs seem to me like genocide…”
Treading Water looks at the unexpected, untold story of the evacuees behind the 2011 Manitoba flood, when First Nation people were forced from their homes after artificially diverted floodwater swamped their communities to save the city of Winnipeg and other major urban centers. The displacement has triggered a rise in substance abuse and suicide rates, and Plans for getting people home seem to be at a standstill.