Nations & Migrations: New film series confronts 'comfortable truths' about life as an immigrant
Cinema Politica's upcoming program gives storytellers a necessary and timely platform
On the fateful night that Donald Trump was elected the next President of the United States, the website for Immigration Canada was struck by an upsurge of traffic so unprecedented that it became temporarily inaccessible. It became clear that relocating to the Great White North was the Plan B escape route for exasperated American citizens who were so desperate for change that they would resort to the antipode of what they would otherwise have to face.
Canada has grown used to being the brunt of the joke when it comes to political conversations, but hardly ever the model nation — in this era of Brexit, Trump and Trudeau — that it's being hailed as today. The country is under the spotlight and being expected to set an example on the world stage. But the impression that life as an immigrant in Canada is easy is just one example of the "comfortable truths" Ezra Winton, Svetla Turnin and colleagues at Montreal-based Cinema Politica are aiming to dethrone with their upcoming Nations & Migrations program.
On Monday evening, Cinema Politica — which has existed as a renegade, community-driven force at Concordia University and nearly 100 other locations across the globe for well over a decade — will screen The Crossing, a new documentary detailing the arduous passage traveled by a group of Syrians fleeing their war-torn homeland in pursuit of safety and livelihood in a new home. Told viscerally by means of hidden cameras and phone calls, the film lets the refugees articulate their own narratives instead of forging one for them.
The event will inaugurate Nations & Migrations, which finds its focus in "mobility, origins, community and belonging." From now until the end of May, arts councils and the Inspirit Foundation have teamed with Cinema Politica to hold special by-donation presentations of nonfiction works which "highlight issues of nationhood and migration from both a historical and contemporary perspective." Additional films on the lineup include Colonization Road, The Hard Stop and Migrant Dreams.
Nations & Migrations is a threefold initiative. The first is the #comfortabletruths campaign, which summons local artists and activists to produce work that raises awareness and debunks so-called "truths" that have grown entangled with overarching misconceptions within Canadian nationalism — for example, that "Indigenous people have it easy because they get special government treatment." The second is comprised of a number of "groundswell screening events" occurring nationwide between now and February, and the final involves the vital multi-platform discussions being carried out online.
The Cinema Politica network wields their screenings as fuel to ignite public dialogue, and so The Crossing's Montreal premiere will be hosted by Ala'a Jarban, a Yemeni refugee and human rights activist. He will be joined by filmmaker George Kurian, community organizer Oula Hajjar and hip hop artist Yassin "Narcy" Alsalman for a post-film breakdown of the struggles prevailing worldwide, and, according to organizers, "how we might move toward a social landscape where no one is illegal and policy is directed from the ground up, not the other way around."
Much of what we see on the mainstream news is distressing, disorienting and disparaging. (The image that surfaced last year of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who drowned attempting to reach Canada with his family, will not soon fade from memory.) Cinema Politica, as it fights for justice, equality, inclusivity and pluralism, is giving a platform instead to the storytellers who hope to be able to tell us where we can go from here.
Nations and Migrations: Stories of Borders, Bodies and Resistance. November 28-May 31. www.cinemapolitica.org