Curated by Alex Rogalski
The films in this program focus on strong women whose lives are forever altered by human rights abuses. Collectively, this program highlights their courage, voice and will to reclaim their lives and through their participation in these films they address powerful issues in hopes that their struggle and suffering will prevent further abuses and give hope to those who have fought similar injustices.
Although all are Canadian- made films, the subjects are as diverse as this country and the content is international. From young women who have taken up the sport of boxing in Afghanistan in a post - Taliban society (in Ariel Nasr’s spellbinding new work The Boxing Girls of Kabul ) to a South Asian female officer in Edmonton who was a victim of spousal abuse (Shazia Javed’s Namrata) these women have fought against oppression and are incredible role models. Lisa Jackson’s Savage is a multi award winning story of young girl’s first day in a residential school. Yu Gu presents another personal story in A Moth in Spring, relating her experiences as a Chinese-Canadian artist as she visits her mother’s homeland and confronts the oppression they faced in not having the basic human right of freedom of expression. Together these films share a singular mission in demonstrating how victims of these abuses have reclaimed their lives and bravely speak out to change the world.
Savage, dir. Lisa Jackson, 2010, Canada, 6 min
Taken from their homes and stripped of their identities, a young aboriginal girl and her classmates express themselves in unexpected ways when their teacher isn’t looking. Award-winning filmmaker Lisa Jackson delivers one of the most original short films of the year in the form of a residential school musical.(2011 Genie Winner - Best Short Film)
Durga, dir. Paramita Nath, 2011, Ontario, 11 min
The colourful and joyous festival of Durga Puja is one of the largest religious festivals in India. However, while the goddess is celebrated, millions of Indian women live another reality, much less revered. This haunting visual poem examines the contradiction between the spiritual worship of femininity and the brutality of domestic violence. (Michelle Latimer, Hot Docs )
A Moth in Spring, dir. Yu Gu, China/Canada, 2011, 26 min
In the midst of production on a dramatic film about her father’s departure from China during the 1989 Student Democracy Movement, Yu Gu was shut down by China’s Ministry of Culture. Chronicling her filmmaking process in China, issues of artistic freedom rise to the fore and confirm a daughter and father’s common histories. Weaving narrative, experimental, and vérité footage, Gu’s documentary shines a light behind remaining barriers. (English and Chinese)
Namrata, dir. Shazia Javed, Canada, 2009, 9 min
Namrata Gill wraps herself in her wedding sari, bringing emotions to the surface with her honest testimonial describing six years in an abusive relationship. This is a powerful story, though sadly, one that is shared by many others entrapped by their communities and unable to speak publicly. Gill’s voice and courage resonate with self-determination, providing hope to those in similar circumstances.
The Boxing Girls of Kabul, dir. Ariel Nasr, Canada/Afghanistan, 2011, 52 min
A spellbinding portrait of a team of young women who dream of representing Afghanistan as boxers on the world stage. Motivated by a love of country, and deeply aware of the precarious nature of their newfound freedoms, these women defy tradition and the expectations of audiences both inside and outside Afghanistan. Journeying inside a little-known part of contemporary Kabul, the film follows the young boxers at the gym, at home and at their very first international competitions. A fascinating immersion into the rhythms of everyday life in the midst of war, and a testament to the human spirit.
Alex Rogalski is a Short Cuts Canada Programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival. He also programmes for the Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in Toronto.
We Rise Above is part of a new series on human rights and is generously sponsored by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.