Behind the scenes. Films reviewed: Chasing Asylum, Gulistan Land of Roses PLUS I Am What I Play
Hi this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.
It’s late April in Toronto, and that means it’s documentary season, with movies that take you behind the scenes. CIUT is presenting a special screening of I Am What I Play at the Carlton Cinema next Friday. It takes you behind the scenes at rock radio stations from the 1960s – 1980s. It features Toronto’s own David Marsden. The Mars Bar, broadcasting out of CFNY in Brampton, Ont., introduced the whole alternative music scene — punk, new wave, dance music, British pop — to everyone in the GTA. Incredibly influential. I Am What I Play is at the Carlton Cinema next Friday as part of a series of films presented by this station.
And Hot Docs, Toronto’s international documentary film festival, in on for the next 10 days. It’s showing a huge number of new documentaries, many having their world premier. And remember, if you’re a student or senior, all daytime screenings until 5 pm are free for you.
This week I’m looking at documentaries that take you behind the scenes. There’s a group of women preparing for battle against ISIS, and a group of refugees unprepared for the trouble they’ll face… from Australia.
Dir: Eve Orner
In most countries, refugees have a right to seek asylum upon arrival. The UN charter declares it. Except in Australia. Any migrant arriving by sea is summarily rejected and deported. This, government spokesmen explain, is to deter future migrants. But what happens next is shocking. For several years now, the Australian government has been deporting asylum seekers to camps in the Pacific islands of Nauru and New Guinea. This includes women, children (who receive no schooling) and even babies. What are these detention camps like? The inmates are locked behind metal fences and housed in tents policed by former prison guards. And they are stuck there indefinitely.
All whistleblowing related to these detention centres is illegal in Australia, as is taking photos or footage at the camps. But this documentary managed to sneak in hidden cameras to interview detainees, and to speak to former employees. It’s shocking. Conditions there are said to be worse than at actual prisons within Australia. There are numerous cases of women being sexually assaulted, suicides, hunger strikes and even riots and death. Just shocking.
And here’s the clincher: it’s not a money issue. Canberra ends up spending half a million dollars per year on each prisoner housed in conditions so squalid it’s described as Australia’s Guantanamo. Watching the film is hard to do: it’s slow paced and depressing at times, and the hidden cameras means you often can’t see faces.
Still, it’s definitely worth seeing. It’s a terrific example of investigative journalism exposing government malfeasance of the worst kind.
Gulistan: Land of Roses
Dir: Zayne Akyot
It’s Iraqi Kurdistan two years ago. Peshmerga fighters dressed in baggy khaki uniforms with colourful sashes at the waist are training in the forest. They are learning to shoot and engaging in political discussions. Soon they’ll be heading to the battlefront to fight ISIS in the city of Mosul. Just another war documentary, right? Not exactly.
All the fighters in this brigade are women, They are led by a beautiful and charismatic sergeant named Rojen, She speaks candidly, directly to the camera, saying things like she would feel more beautiful if she had a battle scar on her face. The soldiers switch between combing their long black hair with nettles and sharing the names they give their rifles. Names like “Patience” and “Beloved”.
There is no up-close violence in this film — it finishes before the actual fighting begins. But a heavy shadow hangs over the brigade, not knowing who will live and who will die.
This is a beautiful movie. It is directed by a Canadian filmmaker from Montreal. But as a kurdish-speaking woman she was allowed to follow the soldier’s intimate lives first hand. This is a rare example of behind-the-scenes footage of the women soldiers challenging ISIS’s rule in Syria and Iraq.
Gulistan, Land of Roses and Chasing Asylum are both having the world premier at Hot Docs — go to hotdocs.ca for showtimes. And this station is presenting I Am What I Play next Friday. go to ciut.fm for details.
This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website culturalmining.com