We’re halfway through our block of tickets and the documentaries just keep getting better. I’ve decided to provide links to full descriptions of these movies in an attempt to keep my commentary more concise.
I tend to be an obsessive collector, so I’ve been strongly resisting the urge to start purchasing DVDs for some time. I give up, though: I have to own this one. Ali Kazimi spent seven years piecing together the history of the Komagata Maru, a steamship hired in 1914 by a Sikh entrepreneur named Gurdit Singh to bring hopeful immigrants to Canada from India. The trip was intended to circumvent Canada’s “continuous journey” policy of 1908, which stated that only persons who had arrived in Canada in a single journey from their country of origin were to be admitted as immigrants. By also compelling private shipping firms with routes from Asia to Canada to cancel their services, the act allowed Canada to set a de facto colour barrier for entry while denying that one existed. Despite having complied with this requirement, Singh’s ship was held at gunpoint in the Vancouver harbour for two months without being allowed to land, and finally went home defeated. Kazimi has made an excellent film despite only being about to find about 15 seconds of footage of the ship itself. Best of all, he is completely unapologetic when drawing comparisons with the Safe Third Country agreement of 2002, which uses the same trick to screen newcomers to Canada today. North American distributors have been very shy of this overtly political film, but it’s on a tour of gurdwaras and university campuses, and a DVD will be available on Kazimi’s website in the next few months. Go see this one already!
This movie consisted of eight minutes of unedited video shot at a military checkpoint in the West Bank someplace. We see a tank and an armoured vehicle repeatedly drive in between a family with a sick child and an ambulance, and force them to both turn around. This is scheduled to become part of a larger project, which presumably will include some attempt at context and therefore be somewhat engaging.
Producer Sarah Goodman somehow talked the US Army into letting her follow three new recruits through their first two years in the service, from bootcamp on. I have no idea how she managed this but it makes for an amazing documentary. The three come from very different backgrounds: Sara is a would-be modern dancer who gets talked into enlisting by her father when her career fails to materialize, Thad quit a lucrative career as a stockbroker to sign up out of patriotism the week after 9/11, and Nelson comes from a ghetto in the South Bronx and wants a ticket out. One goes AWOL during basic training, one can’t take the mindless obedience to authority and becomes an alcoholic after being relegated to driving supply trucks, and the third excels gets promoted to an elite combat unit. Without moralizing or drawing our conclusions for us, Army of One is a fascinating portrait of just what your life might be like if you join the most powerful army in the world.