New film documents artists' attempts to heal the world
"Attention: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now over!" This was announced in a fictitious edition of The New York Times created by "The Yes Men," a group of political activists/artists/pranksters, in the hopes of shocking people out of their conventional ways of thinking. Many other artists have been actively engaged in trying to change appalling situations in places such as Rwanda, Iran, Syria and Brazil.
Last Thursday in the South Campus Commons, the Anthropology Club hosted the screening of Cultures of Resistance, a documentary that showcases the work of artists, musicians and dancers throughout the world who are working for peace and justice. The film was directed by Iara Lee, an activist and filmmaker.
The film provides a panoramic view of different global crises and the ways in which everyday people protest war through artistic expression. The film covers a wide array of international conflicts, providing videos and photographs of the Rwandan genocide, cultural intifada in Syria and slums in Brazil. There is ample raw footage of these terrible conditions, which were each narrated by artists of each of the countries involved.
There is something powerful about people from all walks of life telling their stories and working toward social justice, the unifying thread that ties them all together. Cartoonists, rappers, graffiti artists and dancers try to express their opposition to the violence around them. Some visual artists present deglamorized images of what they saw, trying to expose ugly realities. One Iranian graffiti artist explained, "There's so much space for expressing yourself and changing systems." A member of Tehran Rats, another Iranian group of street artists, said, "Good art is something that moves you and shakes you." Musicians, too, focus on the daily problems of their countries. A Palestinian rap group said, "We talk about the things we see in life."
After the film, Jessye Kass '13, president of the Anthropology Club and an Anthropology major at Brandeis, led a discussion. Some students expressed that the film was not specific enough and needed more elaboration. One student explained, "I wish the film talked more about the causes of conflicts." Another student said, "It was not clear exactly who everyone is fighting against. Who are ‘they'?"
Even though the film may not have been entirely specific and in-depth, most students who watched Cultures of Resistance felt that it gave a good overview of various global issues. One student explained, "The panoramic viewer is a good sampler." Another viewer said, "The point of the film was to give a brief overview. Watching the film is the first step in getting people to take initiative and do their own research."
Most students at the screening thought the film was inspiring. One student explained, "It did a good job encouraging people that they can make an impact." Another viewer said, "It provided concrete examples of different kinds of artists. I liked that it showed how everyday people can make a change." More attendees expressed feelings of empowerment, saying, "I feel like everyone can do something, not just political activists" and, "The movie made me think." One of the final comments expressed was, "This documentary was not meant to be critiqued. It was more about how every work of art has a message. The goal was to make the viewer feel something, to have a reaction. Everything that is created by a person has to have perspective; it is hard to be completely neutral. The film itself is subjective because it was made by an artist."
In an interview with justArts, Kass talked a bit about the Anthropology Club. Though the club was only founded in November 2010, it has already hosted a number of successful events. Last March, for example, the club hosted a massive cultural food gala that 250 people attended. Last May, the club held a Questin and Answer session with Prof. Janet McIntosh (ANTH) during which McIntosh spoke about her fieldwork in Africa.
This November the club will be showing an episode of Bones for its first-year anniversary. Kass explained, "The Anthropology Club is geared toward students who want to learn more but who don't have the time to take classes."
Many of the students who showed up at the event last Thursday were not Anthropology majors. I have never taken an Anthropology class, but I did not feel intimidated or pressured during discussion at Thursday's event, as I was not expected to take an academic view on the topics presented. I felt that the event's focus was more on initiating a reciprocal dialogue in which students could both express their views freely and learn from others in a tolerant and respectful environment.
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