DOXA: Documentary Film Festival

Jerusalem is Proud to Present Director: Nitzan Gilady, Israel (2007)

Date 31 May 2008 @ 9.30pm Venue Vancity Theatre, Yaletown, Vancouver

If anything, Jerusalem is an on-going and never-ending turf war. And it's hardly surprising that the that's-mine-that's-yours mentality sloshed over plans for the city's gay and lesbian community to host 2006 WorldPride, an event culminating in a march through the ancient and crisscrossing streets of the civilizations that gave the world -- a resounding "No, thanks for all of them, folks" -- no fewer than three massively repressive and anti-humane religions.

This films bars no holds in describing passionate commitment and courage in the face of bigotry and prejudice, comprehensive cross-cultural misunderstanding; and the profound inhumanity that underwrites the psychosis that is the modern State of Israel. The major ingredient in this particular mix of it is homophobia and virulent ultra-Orthodox fanaticism that border on the lunatic. And here it's the bad guys who won, with the Pride event shamefully confined to a nondescript stadium because of political events and a determinedly homophobic city council.

This is a grim and sad tale. Its telling could be more taut and the camera work could attempt to be more polished and cutting edge, but matters of the heart, rather than art, are at its core. The viewer is moved, outraged, and saddened by the on-going and age-old tale of human stupidity before of difference, and, sadder still is this spectacle of hatred, at the very core of a community that, throughout millennia, has suffered exclusion, martyrdom, and bigotry.

But, for all the sheer horror and stupidity of prejudice here, bolstered and approved of by the city's three religions, there are the committed young who affirm their human rights and their humanity -- and in no small sense, though the lose the skirmish, the have won the personal battle.

These Girls Director: Tahani Rached, Canada/Egypt (2006)

Date 1 June 2008 @ 5 pm Venue Vancity Theatre, Yaletown, Vancouver

The indomitability, let's call it that, of the human spirit is always a surprise: in the face of utter misery, life goes on, somehow, "against the odds," and how odd that it does so. It's been said that the history of humanity can be written out on a cigarette-paper: "They lived, they suffered, and they died."

This film is mainly about suffering, not sentimentally shown, but with a coolness that is daunting. Put up a camera, hold a microphone and people will talk. The street people in this film never say anything new, eloquent, or unexpected, and neither does this take on their lives. Gritty and unjudgemental, it just lets the women and few young men tells us about the lives, which are routine and boring, laced with misery and lacking hope. One is pregnant, one has a baby, they all smoke dope, have been abused and brutalized.

The subject is familiar enough, and there isn't really much here to justify 68 minutes, the point being made at about the quarter hour mark, and then repeated and repeated. Hind, a surrogate mother and social worker despite her protests brings love and receives it back, but she knows that's not going to change much. Yeah, this is an honest little film, with the shots nicely caught, but it rambles on ... rather like the lives of the dispossessed it portrays. But its a neutrality eventually becomes an affectation, and long before its over the stench of poverty and dis-empowerment fill the nostrils and you long for that ice tall skinny latte that is the privilege of the great washed as is going to film festivals.

© 2008 JH Stape