Entertainment Local

DOXA offers brave ideas in strange times

By Zoe Grams

Cate Blanchett portrays 13 different characters in Julian Rosefeldt's film, Manifesto. (Supplied Photo)

Cate Blanchett portrays 13 different characters in Julian Rosefeldt's film, Manifesto. (Supplied Photo)

Vancouver’s annual documentary film festival consistently reflects the energy of early spring, and the sense of possibility, drive and change that comes with it.

Running May 4-14, this year’s DOXA is no different, with dozens of diverse films from talented visionaries across the globe: films filled with ideas and initiatives to help us reinvent during a fraught political era.

With such a variety of meditations on the power of art and activism, navigating DOXA’s schedule can be almost as daunting as the topics it addresses. Here’s a summary of some favourites to look for in the coming days.

The festival opens with Marie Clements’ The Road Forward. It's a remarkable piece of musical filmmaking which offers an often untold piece of BC First Nations history, a reminder of the power of community and activism, and a call for continued “revolution and resolve.”

The work originated as a live theatrical performance, commissioned for the Aboriginal Pavilion at the 2010 Olympics and later expanded into a full-length work at the 2015 PuSh Festival. The screen version features an original score composed by Wayne Lavallee that underpins a commanding ensemble of participants including Jennifer Kreisberg, Michelle St. John, Cheri Maracle, Ostwelve, Murray Porter, Russell Wallace and Shakti Hayes. Called a “powerful celebration of song and spirit,” The Road Forward offers a nuanced, moving call for genuine reconciliation and the self-determination so essential to it.

“Spotlight on Troublemakers” is a program series celebrating the spark and resolve of individuals driving dissent, revolution and social change. The flagship film is Manifesto, which sounds as transcendental as it does bizarre. In Julian Rosefeldt’s visual feast, Cate Blanchett plays 13 different characters, each reciting some of the most powerful social manifestos from the 20th Century.

Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain also offers an evocative portrait, this time of one individual: the iconic polymath writer, filmmaker and artist by the same name - whose work has been lauded, studied and even banned.

Despite his prolific output, Marker himself is elusive as a character. In this tightly paced, intricate work, seven of artist’s colleagues and co-conspirators share stories that paint a picture of someone whose work demands even more attention during difficult times.

Sacred Water shares a different form of activism: the embrace of women’s sexuality and body autonomy. Filmed in the lush Rwandan countryside, Olivier Jourdain’s joyful film explores how the “art” of female ejaculation, or kunyaza, is preserved and encouraged in the region. It is, at its heart, an uplifting work demonstrating the power of connection and respect in sexual politics.

Also terrifically life-affirming is The Grown-Ups, Maite Alberdi’s award-winning depiction of middle-age students in a school for people with Down syndrome, many of whom have worked in the school bakery for more than 40 years. Variety called this film “sweet but unpatronising.” It promises to not only celebrate the relationships developed in the school but to deftly and poignantly undermine our cultural systems that demand uniformity.

It’s a reminder – just like DOXA – that change can be created in a myriad of ways.

DOXA Documentary Film Festival runs May 4 –14, 2017. Tickets, and the full lineup of events, is available at www.doxafestival.ca.