Cinema Politica (CP) was founded as a media arts non-profit in 2003 by me and Svetla Turnin. It is now the world’s largest on the ground grassroots documentary screening network, with around 100 screening locations across Canada and throughout the world. I serve as the Director of Programming, working with a team of programmers to select dozens of independent political films that screen across our network each year. CP’s main activities revolve around alternative exhibition, “direct distribution” and more recently Video-On-Demand (VOD) distribution.
Buying In, Selling Out, Doing Good: The Cultural Politics of Documentary at the Hot Docs Film Festival
In December 2013 I completed my PhD at Carleton University, the result of nearly seven years of research into the social spaces, institutional workings, and organizational practices of Canada’s largest and most important documentary film festival: Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival. Since my dissertation was submitted, I have continued research on this topic, and barring disaster, these efforts should culminate in a single authored monograph tentatively called Buying In, Selling Out, Doing Good: The Cultural Politics of Documentary at the Hot Docs Film Festival, to be published by McGill-Queen’s University Press (currently under contract). Other published writing has come out of this research and can be found in my Writing section.
Insiders/Outsiders: The Cultural Politics and Ethics of Indigenous Representation and Participation in Canada’ s Media Arts
Working together with Lakota artist and UBC professor Dana Claxton, this research project involves looking at the cultural politics and ethics of Indigenous representation and participation in Canada’s media arts field. In 2017 we sent a Call for Chapter Proposals that elicited a massive response from settler and Indigenous academics and artists from across “Canada.” This research will culminate in a robust, 17-chapter collection of essays entitled Insiders/Outsiders: The Cultural Politics and Ethics of Indigenous Representation and Participation in Canada’ s Media Arts and will be published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
Working both in the academic and arts spheres, this research and production project imagines a future “Canada” through the combination of documentary and futurism. Conceived as a initiative of Cinema Politica, where the organization will commission 15 short film projects that will together help usher a new film genre called “documentary futurism,” there is also a research development aspect that informs the larger production plans. The Next 150: Documentary Futurism is funded through a Next Chapter grant with the Canada Council for the Arts, and will be staged between 2017 and 2019, culminating in 15 short films that will circulate across the country, a web space and a publication.
Agitating the Archives: Reframing Representational Ethics through the Review Mirror
During the winter and spring months of 2018 I will be proudly serving as one of Concordia University’s first Curator-In-Residence for their new Visual Collections Repository. Agitating the Archives will comprise two exhibitions that showcase historic cinematic works held in Concordia’s film archives, placing them in context with contemporary politics and ethics of representation. Curation stems from the Latin meaning of “to care for,” and I believe we are living in an age of curation, but so much of what is selected, rejected, placed and presented is not properly cared for. When algorithms, for instance, make selections of artworks based on our consumer habits, can we really say the art is being “cared for”? Through two collaborative curatorial projects, I intend to explore this notion of caring for, both aesthetically—through representations in historical cinema of embattled subjects—and literally through the staging of agitated archival presentations.
Wal-Town was a project conjured to serve two purposes: for me to get home to BC from Montreal in the summer of 2004 and to explore the impact of Walmart stores on communities across Canada. With my good friend Sergeo Kirby, we pitched the idea as a documentary and the National Film Board of Canada soon came on board. Myself and four other activist friends set out for the road trip and the result was a multi-year project that yielded a 2006 documentary film, a now-defunct website, several political actions and speaking events, and research that contributed to the Norwegian Government’s divestment from the Arkansas-based company. Oh, and a slew of amazing photographs, taken by the mulit-talented Jason Gondziola (who took the above photo), also resulted from this odyssey. And on a last side-note about the ironies of corporate capitalism, you can actually buy the film at Walmart. There you have it.
Along with the illustrious Rob Maguire I co-founded Art Threat, a political art and culture blog, back in 2009. Rob ran the show as editor and I was Contributing Editor and eager writer of many interviews, missives and film reviews. While Art Threat had its moment in the sun as the number one political art blog for a spell, the site has now eased into retirement. Some good things do come to an end.