A quick and dirty guide to DOXA 2024

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      Every year, DOXA—Western Canada’s largest documentary festival—assembles a dynamic lineup of new releases. For the 2024 edition, all the festival’s special presentations are by local and/or Canadian talent, making it easier than ever to support homegrown documentaries that tell touching, tough truths.

      There’s a lot to see. Here’s a slate of Canadian films to start.

      The Anarchist Lunch: May 3 @ VIFF Centre

      Everyone’s dad has weird hobbies—even local filmmaker Rachel Epstein’s. Over the past 35 years, weekly meetings—taking place in the same Chinese restaurant in Fairview—have bonded a group of activists, including her father. Filmed over several years, this doc explores aging and activism, and the solidarity forged from a shared drive to change the world.

      Cake and Death: May 4 @ The Cinematheque

      With a name referencing one of Suzy Izzard’s most viral comedy bits—“Cake or death? Uh, cake please”—this mid-length doc asks the question: why not both? The world premiere from local filmmaker William Brown, Cake and Death examines consumption, capitalism, and coercion through a sticky lens. An intricate collage of movie scenes depicting cake morphs to explore how that cake came to be—and the bitter human cost of the global sugar trade.

      Tea Creek: May 4 @ VIFF Centre; May 9 @ Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema

      Head northwest far enough on Highway 16 and you’ll find yourself in Kitwanga, Gitxan territory. Here, Dzap’l Gye’a̱win Skiik Jacob Beaton, confronted by the sharp edge of Indigenous food sovereignty, has turned his family farm into Tea Creek: a training centre dedicated to strengthening Indigenous communities and economies with land-based food programs. Exploring the vibrant legacy of Indigenous agriculture, this film examines different ways of growing knowledge—and what decolonized food systems could look like.

      Between Pictures: The Lens of Tamio Wakayama: May 5 @ The Cinematheque; May 9 @ Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema

      Part of DOXA’s Rated Y for Youth slate, this stirring portrait follows the life of photographer Tamio Wakayama. Directed (and partially animated) by celebrated local artist Cindy Mochizuki, the film explores the power of Wakayama’s images in the context of anti-Asian racism and the immigrant diaspora. From civil rights to cultural celebrations, Wakayama captures the joy of seeking self-determination. It’s preceded by the short film Here and There: a glimpse into the lives of three children from immigrant families trying to connect with their cultural legacies. Standing in conversation, the two films honour heritage, history, and home.

      Yintah: May 7 @ VIFF Centre; May 9 @ Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema

      Yintah—meaning “land”—tells the story of defying resource extraction. Since Coastal GasLink’s decision to build a pipeline through ancestral territory in Northern BC, Tsakë ze’ Howilhkat Freda Huson (Unist’ot’en of the Wet’suwet’en C’ilhts’ëkhyu clan) and Tsakë ze’ Sleydo’ Molly Wickham (Cas Yikh of the Gidimt’en clan) have been at the forefront of the resistance to the pipeline—and have been met with state-sanctioned violence for their actions. Filmed over the course of 10 years, Yintah dives deep into the lives of two land defenders facing government, corporations, and law enforcement.

      A Man Imagined: May 8 @ The Cinematheque

      Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky (The Patron Saints) favour unorthodox filmmaking: shaping the visuals to match the story. In A Man Imagined, Lloyd, an unhoused man with hallucinatory schizophrenia, sees the world as starkly different to the urban jungle he has survived in for decades. At a time when mental illness and visible poverty are increasingly wielded as cudgels to justify law-and-order violence, this intimate portrait shows Lloyd as he is—and the world as he sees it, in all its strange and terrifying and beautiful glory.

      Plastic People: May 10 @ Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema

      DOXA hosts the Canadian premiere of this buzzy SXSW doc that’s part science fact and part science horror, which sees author and presenter Ziya Tong diving deep into the world of microplastics and their impact on human health. Almost every bit of plastic ever produced has broken down into microplastics—and, as Tong meets with experts, performs experiments, and undergoes personal tests, she unravels just how deep this pollution penetrates. It’s an eye-openingly urgent look at an invisible, invasive health hazard that threatens every level of life on earth.

      Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story: May 11 @ Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema

      DOXA always closes with a banger. Michael Mabbott (The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico) and Lucah Rosenberg-Lee co-direct a portrait of one of Toronto’s most elusive icons, trans soul singer Jackie Shane. Born in Nashville in the 1940s, Shane fled to Canada as a teenager; in 1971, she completely vanished for 40 years, eventually resurfacing and restarting her music career. This documentary mixes classic talking heads with audio from calls between Mabbott and Shane before she died in 2019. Elliot Page serves as an executive producer on this story that unravels the musician’s enigmatic life.

      DOXA takes place at various venues from May 2 to 12.