Friday, March 24, 2023
March 24, 2023

Marginalized people assert identities in Salt Spring Film Festival films

BY STEVE MARTINDALE

Salt Spring Film Festival Society

Everyone wants to be seen and heard, but some people are forced to assert their identity in the face of efforts to silence and erase them.

Several films at the upcoming Salt Spring Film Festival focus on people standing up for their right to exist, including Indigenous people who’ve been declared extinct but are still very much alive, female athletes denied the right to compete as women, and marginalized communities erased from history who are now filling in the blanks in the official records.

In a case of “bureaucratic genocide,” the Sinixt Nation in B.C.’s Slocan Valley was declared extinct in 1956 by the Indian Act in order to make way for the damming of the Columbia River. With the Supreme Court now ruling in their favour, this epic 65-year struggle for recognition has lead to a recent revival of Sinixt traditions, as depicted in Ali Kazimi’s Beyond Extinction: Sinixt Resurgence. A similar situation plays out on the other side of the world in Kasimir Burgess’s gorgeous film Franklin, in which the Palawa/Pakana people of Tasmania — declared extinct in the 19th century — join forces with environmentalists in the 1980s to resist a massive hydroelectric project on the Franklin River.

Iranian women forced to wear the hijab assert their right to exist in public with control over their own appearance in Nahid Perrson’s Be My Voice, which profiles courageous journalist Masih Alinejad’s U.S.-based social media campaign to amplify civil disobedience against Iran’s violent theocracy.

Denied the right to compete as women without medically unnecessary hormonal treatment, female athletes with naturally high androgen levels — most of them women of colour — fight back against male-dominated athletic organizations that question their gender in Category: Woman, directed by Phyllis Ellis, whose film Toxic Beauty screened here in 2020.

People of colour, including representatives of Asian, South Asian and Indigenous communities — as well as gay men and trans people — fill in the blanks in B.C.’s official historical records from which they’ve been omitted in Hayley Gray and Elad Tzadok’s illuminating NFB film Unarchived. Trans people also insist on their right to exist in trans filmmaker Chase Joynt’s award-winning film Framing Agnes, which features an all-trans cast, as well as in Daresha Kyi’s award-winning Mama Bears, in which evangelical Christians defy the Church to support and protect their children.

Lesbian visibility is proudly on display in Magnus Gertten’s award-winning Nelly & Nadine, in which two women meet in a Nazi death camp and remain together for decades, and Eva Vitija’s Loving Highsmith, about the groundbreaking author Patricia Highsmith, whose bestselling mid-century novels scandalously featured what Oscar Wilde called “the love that dare not speak its name.”

And here on Salt Spring, people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity assert their right to exist on the island — despite having no place of their own to call home — in the world premiere of In From the Cold, co-directed by Gary McNutt, Kajin Goh and Rob Wiltzen.

The Salt Spring Film Festival take place from March 3 to 5 at Gulf Islands Secondary School, featuring local and visiting filmmakers and film guests. Festival passes now available at the ArtSpring box office (250-537-2102) or online at artspring.ca. Subsidized passes available by request. For the full screening schedule, pick up a program guide or visit www.saltspringfilmfestival.com.

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