2018 DOXA Documentary Film Festival

Dates and Venue May 3 - 13, 2018 | The Vancouver Playhouse, Vancity Theatre, The Cinematheque, The Orpheum Annex, Museum of Vancouver, SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts

Reviewer John Jane


No Man’s Land

80 mins., US, 2017, dir. David Byers

Date and Venue 5 May 2018, 4.30pm @ Vancity

No Man’s Land is David Byers’ on-the-ground, and largely unbiased, account of what happened in the middle of winter at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, east Oregon, a couple of years ago. The incident is all but forgotten by most people living outside the Pacific North-West, but at the time, the standoff between protestors, who preferred to be called patriots, and federal authorities drew attention from international mainstream media.

The film begins with a lone horseman carrying the American flag down an Oregon highway on January 27, 2016. The rider is never specifically identified, but it wasn’t LaVoy Finicum. He was shot the day before by a state trooper while attempting to run a road block, one day prior to his fifty-fifth birthday. Finicum had become a de facto spokesman for the so-called Citizens for Constitutional Freedom – essentially a group of ranchers, aimlessly led by Ammon Bundy.

Byers was granted full access to the militant occupiers throughout the 41-day siege. There were also interviews with local law enforcement and citizens in the nearby town of Burns who not all enamoured with the protesters. Much of the film footage used was taken at night so it wasn’t always clear to see exactly what was going on, or who was really running the show. An absorbing film, but never fully informs whether it was a case of legitimate antipathy or simply unwarranted rancor over federal land-management.

 

Our New President

78 mins., US/Russia, 2018, dir. Maxim Pozdorovkin

Dates and Venue 5 May 2018, 6.45pm @ Cinematheque & 9 May 2018, 8.30pm @ SFU-GCA, 149 W Hastings

In English & Russian with English subtitles

In Donald Trump’s inaugural speech, he was heard to say “People of the world, thank you.” Over in Moscow Vladimir Putin, watching the event on local television was known to respond with “You’re welcome.” This anecdote is from the host of a news program on one of Russia’s State-owned TV channels seen half way through Maxim Pozdorovkin's documentary Our New President.

While Donald Trump's once solid support base appears to be shrinking in America's rust belt, Pozdorovkin's mildly entertaining film goes to great lengths to show that the current White House occupant is not only the Russian people’s favourite foreign politician, but believe they should take some credit for getting him elected. The film is actually more about Vladimir Putin and his publicly owned propaganda machine. Putin actually called Trump to congratulate him before Obama did.

The first politician one will recognise is Hillary Clinton, who is less demonized by the Russian media, but rather just diminished. We don’t see Trump for the first time until thirty minutes into the 78-minute film. There is no new content here; but a miscellany of information drawn entirely from archive footage, YouTube videos and clips snatched from Russian Television. Watching Pozdorovkin's documentary was like witnessing a calamitous event, but instead of turning away you want to look longer. While streaming the film, my internet crashed – twice. Instead of sensibly giving it up, I kept trying to get it back.

 

© 2018 John Jane