9th Annual Vancouver International Film Festival 4 Peace
December 17-18, 2011

With Special Guest:
World-renowned Documentary Filmmaker

Vancouver’s 9th Annual Vancouver International Film Festival for Peace A Great Success

On December 17th and 18th 2011, the 9th Annual Vancouver International Film Festival for Peace returned to East Vancouver for an engaging weekend of film, culture, art and politics. Organized by Mobilization Against War and Occupation, this unique festival attracted more than 450 people over the two days to witness the reality of war and occupation, as well as the beauty and hope of people in struggle for self-determination and social justice around the world. 

This year’s festival theme was ‘War and Peace,’ which reflected the two strongest opposing forces that exist in our world today: the never-ending war wrought by imperialism around the world, and the determined global struggle for peace. Festival-goers were transported from their seats in to the lives of people in the frontlines of this struggle.

The horrors of war and hypocrisy of the war-makers were represented by a variety of powerful and thought-provoking films. The groundbreaking documentary, ‘Rethink Afghanistan,’ challenged the lies that have been spread over more than ten years of CANADA/US/NATO war and occupation of Afghanistan. ‘Occupation 101’ debunked many of the myths and lies that have been perpetrated by Western media about Israel’s occupation of Palestine while John Pilger’s film, ‘The War You Don’t See,’ challenged the deceiving role of ‘embedded’ media in the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. The festival also featured the Canadian premiere of ‘Maledetta Primavera (Bloody Spring)’ by acclaimed Italian director, Fulvio Grimaldi, which showed the human impact of the NATO bombing campaign on the people of Libya.  With the increased threats against the people of Syria, the 2004 film ‘Syria: Between Iraq and a hard place’ by Saul Landau was also as timely as ever.

The incredible victories of the people of Tunisia and Egypt were represented by the films ‘Tunisia: The Revolution Begins,’ and ‘The Egyptian Revolution: Day by Day.’ Through both of these exciting and inspiring films, participants were taken in to the weeks and days leading to the ousting of the US-backed dictators from the two countries.

The festival also featured films which showed struggles taking place in Canada and the United States. ‘Occupy: The Movie’ interwove the events that shaped the Occupy Movement in demanding dignity for the 99%. The effects of hundreds of years of colonization and the continued struggle for self-determination of Indigenous nations in Canada were also highlighted. A series of short films on the Attawapiskat First Nation demonstrated Canada’s neglect and the community’s fight for adequate housing and proper education. ‘Six Miles Deep’ showed the resilience of the women of Six Nations in Ontario who played leading roles in the resistance against the theft of Indigenous land. 

The progressive movements that have spread across Latin America were brought to the big screen with Oliver Stone’s film, ‘South of the Border,’ in which he travels throughout the area to explore the social and political movements and gain interviews with elected presidents of those countries. As well, the gripping documentary, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,’ showed how the people of Venezuela defended their Bolivarian Revolution against a failed US-backed coup against President Hugo Chavez and returned him to power in less than 48 hours.

This year also featured a special element which was a four-hour seminar on documentary film-making titled ‘Making a Documentary Film: A Master Class with Saul Landau.’  Saul Landau is Professor Emeritus at California State University, Pomona, and a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He has produced more than 40 films on social, political and historical issues, and worldwide human rights, throughout his career. He has been the recipient of the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award, the George Polk Award for Investigative Reporting, and the First Amendment Award, as well as an Emmy for “Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang.”

Reflecting on his experience, Saul’s seminar began with an interactive workshop providing participants the opportunity to watch films more critically and understand the effective ways filmmakers are able to reach and impact their audience. This workshop was followed by some of Saul’s memorable works. ‘A Conversation with Allende’ as well as ‘Cuba and Fidel’ demonstrated the themes that the filmmaker began covering at a very  early age in being able to visit and document the roles and ideas of Salvador Allende in Chile and Fidel Castro in Cuba in the 1970s. These were followed by Saul’s groundbreaking work on exposing US foreign policy. First the film ‘The CIA Case Officer,’ followed CIA whistleblower, John Stockwell, as he discusses his disillusionment with the agency. This was followed by ‘Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up?’, Saul’s most recent powerful work exposing the aggressive US policy towards Cuba and the unjust imprisonment of the Cuban 5. The seminar was so widely received that discussion flowed on Saul’s subjects throughout the weekend.

While films and workshops were taking place over the two days in the main auditorium, festival participants also had the opportunity to visit the main hallway to see films about Indigenous struggles as well as the US aggression against Iran. Sharing ideas over delicious food and sweets, there were also many information tables about antiwar work and ways for participants to get involved. The festival this year was once again a big success and had many people who came for one film, but stayed for the day, inspired by what they saw. As a form of expression, film has transformed the way the world understands different experiences, and the 9th Annual Vancouver International Film Festival for Peace was able to foster that expression to help build a better world free of war, occupation and destruction.