Sunday, July 22, 2007

Films For Peace

So, tonight was the third installment in the Peace Reel Film Festival, organized by Artists Against War in Christie Pits Park, here in Toronto. It's been a great event, nothing quite like watching movies under the stars (or the barely visible spots in the sky that pass for stars in the city). There's no doubt that the event was a great success by all accounts (except that most elusive of accounts - money. We're not allowed to charge, only ask for donations).
The first screening in the series was the Canadian premiere of an incredible film about the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, Occupation 101. Things looked dreary on the day, to be honest, with a major downpour and looming black clouds into the evening. Not the kind of thing which brings people out to an outdoor event. But still the people came - nearly 200 of of them, which is a sure sign of how important this issue is to people, and to the buzz around the film. AAW flew one of the filmmakers up from LA - Sufyan Omeish - to introduce the film and take questions. He was extremely articulate on the issues (not surprising since he and his brother spent 6 years making the film).
The next week the crowd wasn't as large but still respectable at 80 people for Kanehsatake: 270 years of resistance. This film is now more than 10 years old so the fact that it can still draw people speaks to its power and to the issue. It's about the Indigenous occupation of a planned construction site on indigenous land at Oka in Quebec. With the recent national day of action for land rights, this film still has lots of relevance. It was preceded by a short film called Mohawk Smokes - about how the Mohawk community at Tyendinaga, in Ontario, have been selling tobacco to raise money for a traditional longhouse and for community services. One of the directors, Audrey Huntley, along with Doreen Silversmith, an indigenous representative from Six Nations, spoke to the films and the issues within them.
Back to tonight... It was bigger than last week with over 100 showing up to see the screening of The Prisoner: or How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair - a film about a journalist in Iraq who was arrested by US troops and held for 9 months, including in the notorious Abu Ghraib. He was told that he was involved in a plot to kill British Prime Minister Tony Blair. If it weren't for the very real horror that Yunus, the subject of the film, and his brothers suffered it would be a comedy.
Anyway, there's just one more week to go in the Film Festival - which I believe to be Canada's only outdoor film festival. Next week will be the classic anti-colonial film, The Battle of Algiers. If you're in Toronto, you don't want to miss it. It's an incredible movie, so sharp on the issues and reality of foreign occupation that the Pentagon screened it for some of its officers as a lesson in what not to do. Apparently they weren't paying attention.
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