Yemen. 2011. A struggling Yemeni tour guide is trying to keep his travel agency and hotel afloat while revolution breaks out all around him. When gunfire and rocket attacks cut one tour short, he returns home to the capital only to find pro- and anti-government forces facing off in the streets. Will he join the revolution or go about business as usual?
This is the central dilemma in The Reluctant Revolutionary one of more than 100 documentaries from around the globe being screened at this year’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival, May 4 – May 13 at venues around Vancouver. Themes range from the Arab Spring and dissidence in China to sex workers, psychedelic drugs and grizzly bears. For documentary fans, it’s a unique chance to see award-winning works from Canada and abroad, world premieres and groundbreaking interactive productions.
DOXA (which is a philosophical term meaning a belief tested by debate) kicks off on May 4 with a special interactive documentary called Bear 71. Based on the life of a real grizzly bear from Banff National Park, the film consists – in part – of compilations of grainy footage from surveillance cameras capturing the bear, moose, cougars and people, as well. Originally made to be viewed on a computer (combining video with interactive features) the film will be shown at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church and accompanied by a live musical performance by cellist Heather McIntosh.
Throughout the festival, special programs offer filmgoers a chance to meet and speak with the people behind the documentaries. Panels focus on Canadian women in documentary film, global justice issues, programming geared especially toward youth, and more.
The festival closes on May 12 with a gala screening of the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. The film traces how one of China’s most celebrated artists became one of the country’s most outspoken dissidents. It focuses partly on the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which killed 90,000 people and hardened Weiwei’s views toward the government.
Tickets to DOXA screenings are $12 (except for the opening night film, Bear 71, which costs $20). You also have to purchase a one-time $3 membership to the Documentary Media Society. Venues for this year’s festival are Pacific Cinematheque, Vancity Theatre, Empire Granville 7 Theatre, Denman Cinemas, Roundhouse Community Centre, Subeez Cafe and St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church.
A complete festival lineup is available on the DOXA website.
Going to DOXA? Can you suggest any can’t-miss films?