Friday, April 04, 2008

Interview w/ Lisa Jackson, Director: "Silence in the Congo The Greatest Silence"

From Lisa Jackson's The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, which airs April 8 on HBO. Photos courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
“Why use sex to humiliate and defeat someone?” asks Dr. Denis Mukwege, who specializes in treating hundreds of female victims of sexual violence at an understaffed eastern Congo hospital in Bukavu. That question serves as the subtext of Lisa F. Jackson’s "The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo" as she encounters face-to-face the physically brutalized, soul-wounded survivors of a dark force that has assaulted 250,000 women and girls. Jackson’s approach is political and humanist and at the same time profoundly personal, given her own survival of a gang-rape in Washington, D.C., when she was 25 years old. This personal/political confluence serves her well in building up a sense of trust among the women she meets and interviews, especially given her willingness to share her story with photographs and newspaper clippings with the film’s participants. But, perhaps the most chilling aspect of the film is Jackson’s interviews with members of the Congolese army in the bush, who unabashedly admit to raping and torturing women. Jackson performed all the production functions (producer, director, DP, sound, and editor) on "The Greatest Silence," which won a Special Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance this year and premieres Tuesday, April 8, on HBO at 10 PM. I sat down with Jackson in Park City’s Yarrow Hotel during the Sundance Film Festival.

Cathleen Rountree: First of all, I want to commend you on your courage in addressing this horrific issue. How did you decide to include yourself and your own experience with rape in the film?

Lisa Jackson: This was a difficult decision and it didn’t happen, I’d say, until halfway through the edit. In fact, I shot for two months in May and June in ’06, then I went back in November to film the rapists. In between I’d assembled some cuts, and people who saw it, kept asking, “How did you get these women to open up to you?” and “What did you tell them about yourself?” I had intentionally gone over my story with the women, using the photographs, the newspaper articles and all the background information about myself. When I told people this, they said, “Well, why don’t you put that in the film? And why don’t you put yourself in the film? You have this incredible journey.”

Then it occurred to me that it was also a way of making these amazing stories I was getting a lot less voyeuristic. So I shot some recreations of me showing the photographs to women and, actually, those reaction shots of the women (when they’re looking at me kind of baffled early on) are when I was telling them what was going on and the translator was relaying it to them. So there were some very authentic moments and, obviously, they could see that my photographs were real.

So, it wasn’t a conscious thing from the beginning, but it seemed to me as an appropriate narrative device. And also a way of making the film more accessible, because the whole point of the film is that these women are not “other.” That we [in this country] experience the same things they do. Within the gradation of human experience, the overlap is a lot more profound than you might think.

CR: How do you feel when you see yourself in the film?

LJ: It still makes me a little squeamish to see myself on the screen, but in the end I think my friends persuaded me in the right direction.

CR: The sections of you do have an organic feel to them.

How frightened were you when you were traveling in these dangerous war zones, especially when you confronted the rapists? I guess there was a period when it was just you and the translator?

LJ: Oh, I was alone the entire time. I mean Bernard [Kalume, a Congolese man who works with the UN peacekeepers as a translator and liaison] came with me for my first trip into the bush, but for the second one, I was pretty much on my own, because the U.N. was completely preoccupied with the election and the count. And … how frightened was I …. You know I’ve done a lot of traveling in the third world and you get into this zone where you’re just so into the moment, you’re not really thinking about what’s going on around you. People have asked me at the screenings, “Weren’t you afraid of getting attacked? Well, people get attacked on the streets of Manhattan, so you can’t not leave your apartment because you might be attacked.

CR: Yes, but you were in the midst of known rapists.

LJ: Yes, that’s true, and there was a moment when I was heading up into the mountain when I went Holy crap, what have I gotten myself into? And suddenly I was just drenched in sweat. Again, it was just putting one foot in front of the other. And then it occurred to me that these guys were such narcissistic, preening, arrogant assholes that they really wanted to be filmed, and that my camera really was in effect a weapon. If anything were to happen to me, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to brag about their accomplishments.

CR: I’m sure that you had already dealt with it in depth, but I’m wondering if making this film had any kind of healing effect on you?

LJ: Well, I’d dealt with it pretty thoroughly, and I’ve made other films about women and sexual violence, and I’ve told my story and written about it. But what was poignant to me is that I had been able to move on, and I’ve actually been able to use that experience to inform a lot of what I do. But the majority of women I met will never be able to move on, they will be stuck in that place.

CR: They’ve also suffered severe lasting physical effects and many of them have children produced from the rape, which leads me to the question: How are the women dealing with their offspring. Is there any resentment toward them or have they transcended their anger?

LJ: No, there’s something about the women I met … I had an interesting question at the Q&A last night: Have I heard anything about these women committing suicide because their lives are at a dead end? There is still an incredible love among these women and a commitment to family and their children. They have such resilience and a grace and strength that shine through. Even that young Immaculate, who had a child by rape, you know she’s going to stick with that child. She may resent her and she may remind her of the rapist, but the maternal instinct trumps everything.

CR: Did you come away with any sense of forgiveness or compassion for these men, who themselves are products of a horrendous culture of violence.

LJ: Pretty much zippo. If I had seen any sign from them that showed the least bit of contrition or even an understanding of what they had done, I might have been able to see them as something other than callous assholes of the first magnitude. They actually seem kind of familiar to me, you know, I see them on the A-train everyday –– and they can be white, too.

I found myself –– in the interviews with them –– being extremely polite with them, and not pressing them on questions they didn’t understand, so I was obviously intimidated by them. I mean I did feel sympathy for them in the sense that they are part of the culture and were raised in the same cycle of violence. They were probably raised in conflict zones as kids and saw a lot of violence. And you wonder, did these guys ever respect a woman? Maybe that’s the source of their contempt for women.

CR: The level of atrocities perpetrated on those women is unimaginable. I mean, some of the torturous acts are things I’ve never heard of. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around them, like the men forcing a pregnant woman’s child to trample on his or her mother’s stomach to kill the fetus.

LJ: Yeah, well, there was a lot that I just had to edit out. One woman talks about being forced to eat her own feces that was mixed with the flesh of her child who the men had murdered. Acts that you really cannot imagine.

CR: My god . . .

LJ: It’s on a Nazi level.

CR: It’s beyond that –– it’s pure evil.

LJ: Yes, it’s pure evil.

CR: I mean the Nazis were a calculated machine, but this is raw and primal.

You know, I can’t help but wonder how documentary filmmakers, such as yourself, who encounter these atrocities (last year’s "The Devil Came on Horseback" also comes to mind) –– how does Lisa maintain the filmmaker’s point of view and maintain a human presence, an emotional equilibrium, without being entirely overwhelmed by what you’re hearing and seeing? How do you walk that line?

LJ: Well, as a documentarian, part of your job is to probe the soul, if you will. And, I’ve had –– I can’t tell you –– countless, countless interviews where my job is to get that person to return to that dark place, to remember it and to feel it and to share it.

CR: How do you do that?

LJ: How do I do that? [Hesitates] I don’t know how I do it. Well, I don’t just sit down and start talking to them, first of all. There’s always that long, slow approach so that we know each other and trust each other. And I let them take their time. And, of course, so much of it was in another language. I had a female translator for the majority of the time, but for the rest of it, I didn’t have a translator at all. And these stories didn’t come out until later. Like in the church group, for instance, Bernard was there for the very beginning, and when the old woman started telling the story about being raped by the seven soldiers, you know, he couldn’t take it anymore. He fled, and spent the rest of the three hours sitting outside, while I was inside. I had a sense of this incredible passion and this truth-telling, and also felt this incredible privilege. That was just a spontaneous moment and I kept filming.

CR: You must have been a wreck by the end of each day.

LJ: Yes, in terms of the interviews, by the end of the day, I would just be shaken, just destroyed, particularly out in the bush. At night I would just weep. I still find it hard to watch. I feel such an incredible responsibility to these women. You know, they said to me: “We’re telling you, so that you will tell other people.”

CR: What do you hope this film will accomplish?

LJ: Well, that’s what’s been so gratifying about these screenings [at Sundance]. After the second screening, I was overwhelmed with people wanting to know what they can do. So we cobbled together a one-pager with a website of where they could go for further information []. Also we’re building a huge outreach campaign for when the film airs on HBO.

CR: So did you pre-sell the film to HBO?

LJ: Yes, they bought it on second rough-cut, back in the spring.

CR: Is there anything else that you’d like people to know about your film, Lisa?

LJ: Well, yesterday we were up skiing and a couple of women who’d been at the screening the day before came up to me and said, “We’re a group of six women from Phoenix and we all had tickets to your film, but at the last minute, four of the women said, ‘I can’t take it; I don’t want to see those stories this early in the morning.’” But people, I think, have a moral obligation to listen. Particularly because there’s a certain complicity the first-world has in the destruction of a lot of third-world countries; and the Congo is very much an economic war. You know, our cell phones literally have the blood of Congolese women on them.

I just hope that people aren’t turned off by the title, and that they’re driven by a sense of compassion and by a sense of our common humanity, and also by a sense of curiosity about an invisible war and the invisible victims of this invisible war, and that they will want to know, and that knowing, they will do something.

CR: Do you have any sense of hope about the condition of our world?

LJ: In general, not much, but in the specific … I’ve started shooting a film in Columbia, kind of on the same subject, where the war has been going on for almost 60 years, when the presidential candidate was assassinated by the CIA –– very much like Lumumba in the Congo.

CR: And Allende.

LJ: Yeah, and Allende. They say that at least half the women in the country have been personally affected by the sexual violence –– either through rape or physical assault. One 11-year-old was raped by the para-military, and when her mother denounced them, the threats began. They have all left their homes because of the violence and have found each other. So, I’m just going to follow them over the next year. When you look at the aggregate of Columbian women, you just think, How has this country kept going? That country is our [the US government’s] personal embarrassment; it’s a disaster.

But when you talk to the individuals and you see that, despite it all, they want to start a beauty salon or they want to get their daughter back to being the champion rollerblader that she was before she was raped, you know, they have hope and they keep going. They’re living in slums with no running water, but they still have this dignity. And it’s the same with the women in the Congo. It’s the women who are going to save that country, and we have to save them.

[This interview was first published in the IDA e-Newsletter on 4/3/08 with permission to reprint.]

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Walk to Beautiful: Interview w/Mary Olive Smith and Amy Bucher

In December, A Walk to Beautiful won IDA’s award for the Best Documentary of 2007. Directed by Mary Olive Smith and co-directed by Amy Bucher, Walk chronicles the stories of five Ethiopian women who suffer from devastating childbirth injuries and their subsequent healing journeys at the obstetric Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, where remarkable doctors devote their lives to repairing these women’s bodies and hearts.

Obstetric fistula is a rupture that develops between the vagina and the bladder, and sometimes between the vagina and the rectum during obstructed labor. According to U.N. figures, three million girls and women in developing countries suffer from this chronic condition. In addition to the embarrassment and shame of incontinence, these women are often rejected by their families and driven from their villages because they cannot hold jobs, take public transportation or, due to the fetid odor, even walk in public.

This noteworthy, lovingly rendered film has won audience awards at the San Francisco, Denver, and St. Louis International Film Festivals. Cathleen interviewed directors Smith and Bucher in April 2007 during the San Francisco International Film Festival.

(A Walk to Beautiful opens on February 8 in New York City and February 29 in Los Angeles and will air on PBS' Nova in May.)

Cathleen Rountree: What provoked the idea for A Walk to Beautiful?

Mary Olive Smith: We read a column in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof about obstetric fistula. He was the inspiration for this film. It was the first time he’d written about the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. He writes a lot about women’s health issues now. It was a beautiful column, written three years ago. Someone in our office read it. We knew it would be a difficult film to make, but we started talking with the Fistula Foundation, which was very small at that time and recently founded.

CR: Where is the Foundation located?

MOS: In New York City. The hospital had been supported for 30 or 40 years by foundations in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, but there had never been a foundation in the US. So it was new and they were supportive of the idea. Then Steve Engel [a producer] asked me to direct it because I’d had previous interest in human rights in Africa.

CR: When did you first travel to Africa?

MOS: I went to Ethiopia about three years ago on a scouting trip and visited the hospital and met with Dr. Hamlin and Ruth Kennedy. I wooed them and told them how much we loved their hospital and how much we wanted to do this project. And they said okay! I think that was our biggest success, just getting their approval, because they’re very protective of the women . . .

Amy Bucher: They’d had some not so good experiences.

MOS: in fact, when we first arrived, Amy started shooting in the hospital, while I went out to the countryside to find women –– we weren’t sure we’d find women who would agree to being filmed –– so we thought we’d better shoot in the hospital to be safe. But right before we arrived, another film crew had been thrown out.

CR: what had happened in that situation?

AB: I think they weren’t as sensitive to the women. They may have filmed before asking permission. I think there was an assumption that they could just go where they wanted to go. And that certainly wasn’t the way we handled it. I don’t think I had known they had been given the boot until we’d been there a couple of days. And then Ruth Kennedy said, “Oh, you guys are such a delight to work with.” Then she told me what had happened before we arrived. That was a relief to me that we were so welcomed there.

CR: Who is Ruth Kennedy and how did she get connected with the hospital?

Well, Dr. Catherine Hamlin and her husband went to Ethiopia from Australia –– I was doing the math –– about 47 years ago. They went, not necessarily to do fistula repair, but to do gynecological obstetric care. You pick this up, Mary, because you’re more familiar with it.

MOS: They were working at a hospital when Haile Sellassie was in power, and they came across fistula patients and, as she says in the film, they were so moved by these women (particularly her husband, who would single them out) who were often pushed to the end of the line waiting to get into the hospital, because people pushed them there and complained that they “smelled; those wretched women, get them away.” So both doctors began specializing in operating on fistulas, and eventually decided to found their own hospital. They’ve survived through the monarchy, the communist era and now the attempt at democracy. The hospital is still being supported by the government, or tolerated, at least.

AB: And it’s growing like crazy. They recently added on a new wing. And Dr. Hamlin appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show about two years ago, and within days, several million dollars had been raised and they were able to expand. Now their goal is to open five more hospitals in the outlying areas of Ethiopia. Two have already opened. So, that’s a big change just since from when we were there.

CR: Who works in the hospitals?

MOS: That’s something that’s very important, Catherine and her husband Reginald immediately began training Ethiopians. So the hospitals are primarily staffed by Ethiopians and they are outstanding surgeons. Catherine’s goal is for this work to continue after she passes away. She’s 83 now, so she can’t be here forever.

CR: This is a worldwide problem, right?

MOS: Yes, in the poorest countries in the world, so there is a direct correlation with endemic poverty. But the highest rates are in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Africa –– Nigeria, I believe, has the highest rate in the world. And then Southeast Asia –– Bangladesh, Pakistan. Latin America has a lower prevalence and they think that’s because there are more roads! So the hospital may be far away, but you can get there, probably just better infrastructure, period.

So Ethiopia has one of the highest rates and they think that’s because of geography as well. It’s mountainous and very diverse geographically, so it’s all the harder to get roads in for women to get places.

CR: Who is affected by this condition? Is it particularly very young women?

MOS: Of all pregnancies, whether in the US or Ethiopia or Sweden or Nigeria, five-percent of all pregnant women will have obstructed labor. If they don’t get a caesarian, they’ll either die or they’ll end up with terrible injuries. Maybe there are a few lucky ones who survive without that happening. So you add to that, undernourishment. Dr, Ruth Kennedy always likes to remind us that the food in Ethiopia is really healthy, so they get good nourishment, but not enough. And these women work so hard, they burn a lot of calories, so the girls are underdeveloped. But the boys are too, it’s not just the girls, the boys are tiny.

CR: But they don’t have to push a baby out.

MOS: Right, they don’t. Then you add to that early marriage. So there are a lot of complicating factors. But if got rid of the cultural factors and even the undernourishment, there’d still be obstructed labor. And without a caesarian they would still suffer from fistula.

We still had fistula in the US until 1895.

AB: But Ethiopia does have one of the highest rates of young marriage in the world. It’s a complex picture, but it certainly is a factor that, if you have a ten-year-old-girl, who is as undernourished and works as hard as those girls do, it’s very unlikely that she’s going to be able to pass a baby through her pelvis.

MOS: One of the girls in the film was 15, but she was married when she was eight. She didn’t get pregnant until she was 15, but it’s still a big problem.

CR: How did you locate the young women, the characters, for the film?

MOS: I went with a big crew to a region of Ethiopia, a very poor area, and went out beyond the town we were staying in (just with my interpreter and producer and our guide). We worked with the local clinics and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church searching for these women; we went on immunization trips. And we weren’t finding any one. I knew it would be hard, and finally on day five . . .

CR: There are so many women suffering with fistula, why did you think it would be hard to find them –– because of the shame factor?

MOS: Well, yes, they hide. I think the villagers may or may not know what kind of sickness they have, or if they know, they’re afraid to tell. It’s interesting, we were just communicating with women, and really had no luck. And it was our guides, the men, who ended up having a little more luck. We found one young woman and I asked if I could take her picture. She said, “Oh, yes, I’ve had my picture taken a lot at the fistula hospital. And, lo and behold, she’d already been cured! I was about to cry. I said, “Very nice to meet you, but . . .” It turned out that she was on her way to her friend Ayehu’s house. She was sick and she wanted Ayehu to visit the hospital. So the whole scene in the film is exactly how it happened, how we arrived at Ayehu’s.

And then another women we found, thanks to a boy in the marketplace, who admitted that there was a woman in his village who was leaking. But he was so afraid, it took our guides an hour to convince him that he was doing a good thing by telling us how t find her. And then Yenenesh just came to our doorstep at the hospital. She happened to be a maid at a house in the town, and word spread, and the man she worked for heard about us and said, “Come, there are some people who are going to help you.” He was so happy. And there she was, two nights before we were leaving. So that’s how we found them.

Amy, you should talk about how you identified whom you were going to interview in the hospital.

AB: As I’m thinking about it now, I had the opposite experience and the opposite challenge from Mary Olive, which was we arrived at the hospital and it was not about finding the women, but the problem of narrowing it down from an enormous selection of candidates. They had about a hundred beds. And every woman’s story is compelling and heartbreaking. We asked the hospital if we could interview all the women who had arrived the day before, because we wanted to get their experience from the very beginning of their stay, hadn’t even been examined by the doctors yet.

We interviewed about 12 women that first day, and I had a set list of questions: How long have you been leaking? How old were you when you got married? What was your husband’s reaction? We went through kind of cataloging the stories. It was a day of just crying after hearing these stories. And, too, seeing which women seemed the most comfortable just talking to us. But we certainly didn’t bring any cameras in that day. It was a chance to see how they felt about the idea of us following them around.

Out of that first day we found two of the women we followed, one of which, Almaz, ended up in the film. Her story stood out because she’d had a double fistula, which –– well, urine is one thing, but add feces to that for three years, it’s hard to fathom. The next day we actually saw Wubete from across the room and she was kind of peering around the corner looking at us and her face was so expressive. And as soon as she opened her mouth, there was something about the quality of her childlike hope. She’s been there already three times. And I think there was something else interesting about her story because she had already been operated on, but she hadn’t been cured yet. So that’s how it started at the hospital.

CR: What was your purpose in making this film?

MOS: Our goal was not to just make an advocacy piece. We felt that we would advocate the best by making a beautiful nonfiction narrative film. The easy sell for the hospital would be: Woman comes in, fistula gets cured, woman goes home. Transformation, she’s happy, the end. But you need setbacks and conflict in a good film. And so these stories were, I think, particularly compelling and stood out to Amy. We were a little nervous about having a character who was not completely cured, but the fact that she finds her way, finds a way to grow up and be strong anyway, is all the more moving. So she ends up having one of the best stories, if not the best story, even though she wasn’t cured.

I hope that people see that we were not just making a film about fistula, but about women who just wanted to be whole people again.

AB: That tenacity was important, that they were willing to do whatever it was going to take. Neither of us had any idea about what would transpire with these women, what would happen next. In some cases it was very straightforward and happy; and in other case it was very complicated and an indirect route to the end product.

MOS: We never thought we would have five characters, but each one seemed to bring something so different.

CR: How was it for these women after they were cured and they returned home? Were they welcomed back into their society?

MOS: That’s a complicated question. I’m not sure Amy or I know the answer or if the hospital even knows the answer. My guess is that for the women who were cured, and who hadn’t been sick for that long, they’re welcomed back. Zewdie was welcomed back immediately, although she was nervous about reintegrating. Ayehu, the first woman you meet in the film was sick for six years, and I went back and saw her three months after she’s been cured. She was still angry because of the way her family had treated her, so she wasn’t running out to the well to hang out with the neighbors yet. She’s older and doesn’t plan on getting married again. For the younger women who get cured, my understanding is that they reintegrate pretty quickly.

It’s not that hard to get married again. We found that virginity in an orthodox community is not a big issue. Some of the women had had three or four husbands. If you’re married and your husband leaves, you can get married again.

AB: There are so many reasons why girls are married off early. We want to do our next film on early marriage, which we’ve gotten some interest in.

CR: Early marriage in Ethiopia?

AB: Yeah, we’re going to focus on Ethiopia because it has such a high rate, for a variety of reasons –– from economics to making sure that your daughter is protected and not abducted into marriage as Almaz was. You know, you’re abducted, then you’re raped, then you’re a wife. Almaz’s husband treated her well, sold a cow so he could help her, bought soap for her. He never abandoned her, or put her out of the house. But when Almaz was cured and we went home with her to film the homecoming, it all started to come out what her sense of this marriage was. She just had so much spunk, I left thinking: I wonder if she’s going to stay with this guy. And, lo and behold, as soon as her body was healed, she was out of there. She left her husband and her village and moved back to Addis Ababa and found a job on a rose farm. So she acquired the strength to leave a marriage she never wanted to be in in the first place. But every story was different.

CR: How long did you film in Ethiopia?

AB: We were in the hospital for 2 ½ to 3 weeks following the women through their surgical procedures and recovery process. Then we went off for a week before we returned. So that first trip was about four weeks. And then a couple months later we went back to film Wubete for a couple of weeks.

MOS: Then I went back again with our composer and we recorder traditional music and a lot of the traditional sounds to include.

But what I didn’t do was tour. So, I’m taking some time next fall to travel in Ethiopia, and we’re premièring the film then!

(This interview was originally published in the IDA e-Newsletter 2/6/08.)

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sundance: Day 6, Tuesday, 1/22/08

Sundance: Day 6, Tuesday, 1/22/08

Yesterday I happened to be working in the Festival pressroom when the news of Heath Ledger's death broke. Industry insiders felt shock and deep sadness at the loss of this talented and much-too-young-to-die 28-year-old. A tragic waste of life.

Yesterday I interviewed two doc directors: Irena Salina, “Flow: For Love of Water,” and Stephen Walker, “Young @ Heart.”

The most compelling and politically/socially/environmentally important documentaries I've seen thus far include the following:

(For fuller descriptions of the first 5 titles, see earlier post: “Sundance: Opening Day, Thursday, 1/17/08):

“Flow: For Love of Water” (U.S.), director, Irena Salina.

“Fields of Fuel” (U.S.), director, Josh Tickell.

“I.O.U.S.A.” (U.S.), director, Patrick Creadon.

“The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo” (U.S.), director Lisa F. Jackson.

“An American Soldier” (U.S.), directed and written by Edet Belzberg.

“Secrecy” (U.S.), co-directors, Peter Galison and Robb Moss. Looks at the staggering production of government classified secret documents that involves millions of people and billions of dollars.

“Up The Yangtze” (Canada), director Yung Chang. In this riveting and gorgeous doc, Chang spent 5 years chronicling the life transitions of families who live near the Three Gorges Dam and must find a way to adjust to the rising waters in a dramatically changing China.

“Singshot Hip Hop” (U.S.), director, Jackie Reem Salloum. Palestinian rappers present alternative voices of resistance within the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Very hot.

“Trouble the Water” (U.S.), co-directors, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. Lessin, an aspiring rap artist, and her streetwise husband who, filmed their experience of being trapped in New Orleans by deadly floodwaters, and seize their chance for a new beginning.

“The Women Of Brukman” (Les Femmes De La Brukman) (Canada), co-directors Isaac Isitan and Carole Poliquin. After the Argentinean economic meltdown between 2001 and 2003, with 60 percent of the population living in poverty and unemployment, after factory owners walked away from their businesses, workers took over a Buenos Aires men's clothing factory and managed to keep it in operation, providing employment.

“Alone In Four Walls” (“Allein In Vier Wanden”) (Germany),
director, Alexandra Westmeier. A heartbreaking account of teenage boys struggling to grow up in a home for delinquents in rural Russia where their home lives present even greater hardships.

“Be Like Others” (Canada, UK, USA, Iran), director, Tanaz Eshaghian. Forget what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at Columbia last year. This doc explores the unexpected subculture of young Iranian men who choose to undergo sex change surgery.

“Dinner With The President” (Pakistan), co-directors, Sabiha Sumar and Sachithanandam Sathananthan. Examines the current cultural climate in Pakistan by interviewing people-on-the-street, religious leaders

“In Prison My Whole Life” (UK), director, Marc Evans. Interviews with Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Mos Def, Angela Davis, Snoop Dogg and others uncover the story behind award-winning journalist Mumia Abu Jamal’s death row sentence, and comes to startling realizations about American history and America's justice system.

“Triage: Dr. James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma” (Canada), director Patrick Reed. James Orbinski, former head of Doctors Without Borders, returns to Africa where he is forced to examine the meaning of humanitarianism.

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