Dates 4 - 13 May 2012 Venues Vancity Theatre, Pacific Cinematheque, Empire Granville, Rio Theatre & Denman Cinemas

Big Boys Gone Bananas

87 min. Sweden, 2011 dir. Fredrik Gertten | Reviewer John Jane

Date and Venue 6 May @ 1800h @ Pacific Cinematheque

Big Boys Gone Bananas is less reportage on an earlier exposé on banana workers in Nicaragua and more a David and Goliath battle between Swedish filmmaker WG Film AB and Dole Food Company, the multi-national produce grower. In the biblical story, David was at least given a fair chance. Whereas, in what turns out to be a very personal conflict between Dole’s Vice President and Corporate Secretary Michael Carter and Fredrik Gertten and his lone lawyer Lincoln Bandlow, the odds are stacked against the documentary director to an extent that even a tie seems impossible.

WG Film had what they felt was a balanced film (titled Bananas!), but just before it was about to be screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June 2009, the festival organisers gave way to pressure from Dole and took it out of the competition and relegated it to an off-site theatre for a single showing. Unfortunately though for Dole executives, the more censorship is imposed – the more public curiosity is aroused.

Salaam Dunk

82 min. Iraq/USA, 2011 dir. David Pine | Reviewer John Jane

Date and Venue 7 May @ 1300h @ Pacific Cinematheque

The bi-cultural Islamic- American title (Salaam = greeting/salutation) would seem to be appropriate here. Set in the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS) in Northern Iraq, David Pine’s film cannot escape the region’s socio-political issues – and why should it? Salaam Dunk shares much in common with The Boxing Girls of Kabul, another film in this year’s DOXA festival. Both films deal with the central theme of a Middle-East women’s sports team whose mere existence is validation for a compelling ‘survival-against-the-odds’ story. Pine’s film however, differs in two important ways: the young women in this film that uses basketball as a metaphor to symbolise a human struggle, are privileged and well educated as compred to most women in the region, and speak to each other in English in preference to Kurdish on the basketball court.

Generally focused around the team’s twenty-year-old captain Laylani and their popular American coach Ryan Bulalo the film shadows the team’s fortunes, or lack thereof, in five of their games of which they win only one and hopelessly outclassed in two of the others. Pine also shows that for these students, basketball is only one aspect of their compulsory and elective workload. Laylani, who speaks near-perfect English, also participates in drama, Tai Chi and contributing to the University newspaper as well as a full academic load.

Girl Model

78 min. USA, 2011 dir. David Redmon & Ashley Sabin | Reviewer John Jane

Date and Venue 12 May @ 1600h @ Pacific Cinematheque

For most of us, our only connection with the glamorous world of high fashion is through images of high earning supermodels like Gisele Bündchen and Naomi Campbell. But David Redmon & Ashley Sabin’s film shows us a sinister underbelly where girls as young as thirteen vie for modelling assignments in far away Tokyo.

Girl Model opens with a disturbing scene in Siberia, with around two hundred schoolgirls parade their innocence and under-developed, bikini clad bodies past recruiters who promise much, but deliver little. The film follows two protagonists who become involved in this heart-breaking business: Nadya is a carefree thirteen-year-old from Novosibirsk, who after being selected, leaves behind her school, family and friends for uncertain prospects as a model in Japan and Ashley, an American former model turned somewhat equivocal scout who combs the remote regions of Siberia searching for fresh faces for a thriving Japanese market. The two women meet only twice throughout the film, but their stories are inextricably linked. Nadya's early optimism diminishes as she faces overwhelming isolation and a burdening debt to her agency; while Ashley reveals a jaded perspective about the industry's propensity towards blatant exploitation.

The Boxing Girls of Kabul

53 min. Canada, 2011 dir. Ariel Nasr| Reviewer John Jane

Date and Venue 8 May @ 1700h @ Vancity Theatre

Despite the film’s title and subject matter, The Boxing Girls of Kabul is a gently compelling story about a trio of young Afghan women who strive to become international-class boxers. Afghan women are at a distinct disadvantage compared to their counterparts from other countries who embrace their female athletes. When sisters Sadaf and Shabnam Rahimi and Shahla Sikandary step into the ring, it’s not just their opponents in the opposite corner that they must battle. They face prejudice and hostility from their own countrymen. Even their trainer Sabir Sharifi, a former Afghanistan Olympic champion, has to watch his back. This National Film Board documentary looks at the three teenagers and shows that what they lack in top class training and decent facilities, they make up for in courage.

© 2012 John Jane