All human (and pony) life comes to DOXA 2014

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Secrets and lies, Big Brother, and the dark underbelly of the Internet are some of the themes covered in this year’s DOXA film festival.

      Oh, and George Takei. Plus cartoon ponies and the men who love them.

      In other words, there’s plenty to feast on yet again as DOXA brings over 90 films to Vancouver for its 10-day celebration of the best in global documentary filmmaking, taking place from May 2 to 11.

      Among this year’s highlights, announced during a conference at the Media Club today (April 2):  

      The Justice Forum takes a look at Jayson Blair with A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power and Jayson Blair at the New York Times. While the disgraced New York Times contributor’s story is compelling enough on its face, Samantha Grant’s film also takes into consideration a culture that rewards criminal behaviour or the flouting of traditional ethics (Wolf of Wall Street, anyone?)

      Anyone familiar with Chris Hedges’ concept of sacrifice zones will want to see Cesar’s Last Fast. Also included in the Justice Forum, it looks at the 36-day hunger strike undertaken by Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers union in 1988, as he protested the use of pesticides on grapes in California.

      Casablanca Calling examines a “quiet revolution” occurring in Morocco, where 400 women have taken on the work of Morchidats, traveling through the country lobbying for a truer, misogyny-free interpretation of Islam.

      The transcripts of six crashed commercial airliners are given basic re-enactments, in 3D, in Charlie Victor Rome, which was described by New York Times critic AO Scott as “one of the most terrifying movies I’ve ever seen.”

      With Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment DOXA gets to indulge in a little naval gazing. The final film from the from the late, great Peter Wintonick (Manufacturing Consent) features on array of legendary names from the world of documentary filmmaking, including Albert Maysles, Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker, Jean Rouch, and Michel Brault

      An offering like Birds of September—in which the camera floats through the inner lives of the citizens of Beirut—presents us with more meditative fare. Ditto Bloody Beans, a history of the Algerian War of Independence that DOXA programmer Dorothy Woodend describes as “cuckoo”, “phantasmagorical” and “must be seen to be believed.”

      Once again, DOXA has an impressive slate of music-oriented films on the schedule.

      Ever wondered about the rigors of parenting when you happen to be in Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra? Come Worry With Us has it covered. The clue is in the title for both Death Metal Angola and Revenge of the Mekons, while This Ain’t No Mouse Music is a glorious-sounding portrait of Chris Strachwitz and his legendary Arhoolie Records label. Meanwhile, a fearless radical is memorialized with the rare 1972 doc, Pete Segeer: A Song and a Stone.

      It’s a little less worthy, perhaps, but anything described as a “punch-in-the-tits type of a film” (that’s Woodend again) is obviously worth seeing. Behold Derby Crazy Love, in which three distaff roller derby teams featuring people with names like Bone Machine and Susie Hotrod do hot-wheeled battle in short-shorts.

      Last year, the festival brought Google and the World Brain with its powerfully dissenting view of the Internet. In 2014, the theme is expanded in films like Web Junkie, wherein over-wired Chinese teens encounter Internet detox centres. As a concerned mom, UK filmmaker Beeban Kidron addresses similar concerns with InRealLife.

      This year's Spotlight series, Secrets & Lies, includes the film 1971, in which the identities of eight ordinary citizens who broke into an FBI office and blew the lid off J. Edgar Hoover’s war against so-called radicals—known as COINTELPRO—are finally revealed.  

      The same series also offers Mirage Men; a long-awaited doc about the efforts of U.S. intelligence agencies to disinform the public about UFOs—with chilling results in some cases.

      Beyond all that, DOXA 2014 brings us sex among seniors, domestic violence, California’s Proposition 8, “the mysteries of the vulva”, a tribute to Eric Rohmer—all human life is here, it seems.

      As for Mr. Sulu, we get up close and personal when To Be Takei receives a special presentation midway through the festival. And the pony lovers? Voice actor and Hey! Ocean vocalist Ashleigh Ball is our guide through the world of bronies—men who really love My Little Pony—in Vancouver filmmaker Brent Hodge’s “irrepressible” A Brony Tale, which closes the fest on May 11.

      The whole shebang opens at the Playhouse Theatre on May 2 with Virunga, a “stunningly courageous” film that depicts the battle between rebel groups and conservationists in the Eastern Congo, as they fight to protect the world’s final population of wild mountain gorillas.

      Check back with the Straight for reviews, features, and more as the launch of DOXA 2014 gets closer. 

      Follow Adrian Mack on Twitter at @adrianmacked.