Hot Docs reviews, part 2! Everyday Rebellion & Vessel.
Following on from the last couple of reviews, here’s what I saw closing weekend of Hot Docs this year.
This documentary was a look at various forms of civil disobedience and non-violent protest the world over, especially in areas where violence is used against the population and protesters. The scope ranges from the Occupy Wall Street and FEMEN movements, to Syrian and Iranian protesters subverting terrifying regimes, groups like Everything is OK and the Yes Men, and Spanish folks fighting against oppressive banks evicting people. It was very interesting to have such a big sample of movements around the world, but it meant there wasn’t a strong narrative and the run time was much too long (at almost 2 hours) to keep a viewer’s focus – those are really my only complaints, though.
It was inspiring to see how these groups of people are working together, mandated by a need for non-violence, to be a presence (physically or not) in their communities. How many of these people feel so strongly about action that even the threat of violence (especially in Syria & Iran) and death (such as the threats aimed at the FEMEN group’s leader) can not stop their willingness to act on what they feel is important, stop injustices in their communities and countries, and affect change in the world. They also showcased some interview bites/bits of speakers who were talking academically about the move toward non-violent protests around the world as well as people who have been instrumental in some of these movements (such as Serbia & Egypt) in the past.
Watch the trailer:
I guess I really wanted to see documentaries about non-violent direct action this year! What a day for intense projects. Following the story of Women on Waves from its inception to the wider organization (including Women on Web) that it is today, Vessel is equal parts disheartening and uplifting. Disheartening only because of how backwards so many governments around the world still are with their antiquated laws forbidding women to make decisions that involve their own bodies, and in seeing the massive amounts of men protesting the Women on Waves boats as they come into port.
But this project and everything that has come out of it has been most definitely amazing and uplifting to see as someone who personally believes in access to sexual and reproductive health for everyone as a basic human right. The idea of the organization was to create a medical clinic on a boat that could sail into international waters and provide legal medical early stage abortions (under the flagship’s Dutch rights and laws) for women in countries where it wasn’t legal to seek abortions. Because of the high rates of unsafe abortions that happen every year, this was a life-saving project, and still is. It has spawned groups of women in countries around the world manning hotlines to help women seek safe abortions (through the use of a pill in the early stages of pregnancy).
There’s also been an offshoot of the project that can means women can now request abortion pills on the internet and have it sent to them, and then be provided support and help online when taking the medication. I think the point in the documentary where I broke down was when they shared the back and forth communication between Women on the Web volunteers and a woman who was about to take the abortion pill; this woman was all on her own, shamed by her country and family for what she wanted to do – after she took the pill, she wrote “I have never felt more alone”. The volunteers were there for her, responding to her messages and being her support when nobody else would.
That is powerful. The work that these organizations are doing is extremely important. When woman are made to feel like monsters, made to feel ashamed of wanting to decide what is right for them – these organizations are there to make sure these women have someone there for them who can help with what they need. The organizations are worldwide, and I’d say if you can donate, please do. At the very least if you could track down this documentary to see, please watch it (or request a screening!). I am very glad to have seen it, even as someone who was already staunchly pro-choice. (And it was in the audience top 20 picks at this festival.) (Plus they have a section on the film’s website all about access for Canadian women, in the wake of the New Brunswick clinic shut down recently.)
Watch the trailer here.