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Against empathy?

Posted by in Animation, Doc Side

This short animation from The Atlantic highlights some of Professor Paul Bloom’s thoughts on why empathy—at least a kind of status quo mainstream empathy—isn’t really a good thing at all. The short should really be called “Against warm glow altruism,” as Bloom is focused on building off of Peter Singer’s concept of effective altruism and this isn’t really an argument against empathy per se. The animation is a little rudimentary, but it still serves as a provocation to the burgeoning industry of liberal documentary and its attendant army of NGOs,…read more

20 Questions for Film Curators

Posted by in Art, Cinema, Culture and Politics, Festivals

This past winter I taught a graduate seminar course at Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema (Concordia University) entitled “Curatorial Practices and the Politics of Programming.” It was a fantastic and meaningful experience and I was fortunate enough to have 13 engaged students, all of whom suffered along with me as I attempted to make sense of my overly-ambitious and newly minted syllabus. After a few weeks of the course and after several discussions around programming ethics, responsibilities, practices, and outcomes, we decided to compile a list of questions that someone curating or programming film might…read more

Fighting Fascism by way of Understanding the Fascists

Posted by in Doc Side

One of the common criticisms of advocacy films like Bully that I’ve heard and share is that the filmmakers narrowly focus on victims without ever exploring those who perpetrate. These films help along the equivocal knee-jerk reaction to oppression when we have a two-dimensional villain to point to: kids today! But why do kids bully and what are their lives like? Answering, or at least interrogating, these questions would move us in a direction to better understand the complexities of bullying and would likely elicit a more nuanced, thoughtful reaction…read more

Streaming Truth to Power: CPVOD Launches!

Posted by in Cinema Politica, Doc Side

The last 48 hours have been quite the whirlwind of activity at Cinema Politica HQ here in Montreal. We’ve been planning a launch date for our newest expansion of the political cinema terrain: Cinema Politica Video-On-Deman (or #CPVOD as we like to call it for short). Anna, our fearless Network Coordinator (she works with all the CP locals, or chapters, worldwide) came up with the brilliant turn-of-phase above, Streaming Truth to Power (a riff on our tag-line mandate: “screening truth to power”). Marie-Noelle has been multi-tasking design and translation to…read more

Curating the North: Documentary Screening Ethics and Inuit Representation in (Festival) Cinema

Posted by in Doc Side, Indigenous Art

This article was originally published at ArtThreat.net on December 17, 2015. Documentary festivals are certainly not immune to scandal and controversy, and this year’s RIDM, which took place in Montreal in November 2015, was no exception. Following on the heels of the festival’s public screenings of Dominic Gagnon’s film Of the North, Inuit artists like Tanya Tagaq and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril took to social media to express their dismay, anger and frustration over the inclusion of an ethically problematic film in the festival’s program. The resulting fallout revealed a deep chasm…read more

Hot Docs 22: CanCon and BrandCon

Posted by in Cinema, Doc Side, Festivals

North America’s largest and most sweeping doc-deluge, the Canadian International Hot Docs Festival, is once again in full swing, and the moment wouldn’t be complete, for me at least, without some form of commentary that assesses this institutional giant as it marks another year. In that spirit and as with past “taking stock” previews (2014 is here, 2013 is here and 2012 is here) of Hot Docs, I humbly present my take on this year’s fest, divided into three Sergio Leone-inspired sections: what’s promising, what’s looking like a fixer-upper, and…read more

Still Talking about Challenge for Change

Posted by in Academix, Doc Side

Challenge for Change/Société nouvelle was a program launched by the National Film Board of Canada in the late sixties that facilitated the production of around 200 social documentaries known for their inclusion of subjects in the production process and their uncompromising critiques of government programs. In 2010 I co-edited a book on CFC/SN with Tom Waugh and Michael Brendan Baker (check out more on this great collection here) and it seems those three years of hard work producing that door-stopper are still turning up new offers to talk about the…read more

Best Canadian Essays 2014

Posted by in Writing

A couple of weeks ago I had the honour and privilege to be invited as a guest to a book launch in Toronto for a yearly anthology published by Tightrope Books called Best Canadian Essays. My POV Magazine essay, Upping the Anti: Documentary, Capitalism and Liberal Consensus in an Age of Austerity was selected by the series editor, Christopher Doda and this year’s guest co-edtior Natalie Zina Walschots. It is such a huge thrill to be selected among the hundreds of articles these editors read throughout the year—from over 60…read more

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Programmers Rant – 2014

Posted by in Cinema, Doc Side

I’ve watched over 50 documentaries in the last two weeks (and many more over 14 years of programming), and here’s what I’m thinking:* The first point is so crucial that I’d like to just put it up front and center, then get on with the lesser evils of contemporary documentary filmmaking: If white people, who are usually or always cis-gendered males, are featured in your film as the only subjects, protagonists or voices of authority, then you have either made a film about a small remote sect in some distant…read more