Apr 3, 2017

As seen on www.straight.com

by Charlie Smith on April 1st, 2017

Around noon today, I dropped by the Just Film Festival at the Vancity Theatre to check out two documentaries by Langara College students.

The first, a 10-minute short called "On Crows", offered deep insights into the empathetic behaviour of these feathered creatures. Director Mariah Kennedy featured plenty of footage of Vancouver birdman extraordinaire, Shawn Bergman, communing with his pal, Canuck the crow. It was astonishing watching Bergman chatter away as the crow sat on his arm.

The second film, "Lucila", was an emotionally charged look at Argentinian ballerina Lucila Munaretto's amazing recovery from a devastating 2015 rollerblading accident in North Vancouver. Directed by Amy Psyden, it shows how Munaretto picked herself up from this near-fatal tragedy to resume dancing and continue smiling while savouring all that life has to offer. It's a truly inspirational story and kudos to Coastal City Ballet for its supporting role.

In the lobby outside the theatre, I ran into Don Wright, the long-time regional activism coordinator of Amnesty International, which is one of the partners who put on the Just Film Festival. Its mandate is to provide a forum for Vancouver's social-justice community to watch films that stimulate discussion and prompt action.

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Below, you can read a quick interview I conducted with Wright about the history of the former Amnesty fest and its collaboration with CoDevelopment Canada and Village Vancouver.

Georgia Straight: How did the Just Film Festival come about?

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Georgia Straight: Can you talk about how the collaboration works?

Don Wright: We work very closely with CoDevelopment Canada and Village Vancouver. All three of us are on the working group. It has a fair bit of influence from CoDevelopment Canada. They're the lead partner. And we're very supportive in that role bringing our experience doing film festivals into the planning. We took on responsibility for all the social media this year. That's something we could bring as a strength to this festival along with suggestions around programming and, of course, our members being made aware and coming out to the festival.

Georgia Straight: How long have you been with Amnesty International?

Don Wright: I've been with Amnesty 16 years as a staff years. Probably 15 years before that as a member, an activist, organizing a group and doing a few protests, lots of letter writing, and so on. I'm the regional activism coordinator. I work with our members and groups throughout western Canada. Mostly I'm in Vancouver and I do occasionally do a tour through Alberta and Saskatchewan. I've been up to Yukon a couple of times, and throughout the province, of course, quite a bit as well.

Georgia Straight: Do you have any favourite films at festival?

Don Wright: There are a couple of them I haven't seen yet. I'm really looking forward to Mali Blues, partly because I'm a big fan of the blues and I'm interested in how this film talks about music as resistance to the authoritarian regime there. It's just in the news the last couple of days around whether Canada will or will not support peacekeeping that area. There's a very fragile peace now.

Georgia Straight: Will Amnesty play any role in the upcoming provincial election?

Don Wright: Yes, we're about to release an open letter. This will be referring to things like Site C and the Mount Polley spill and the lack of any kind of justice around that. There needs to be more support for women's services: shelters, transition houses, and so on. So I think that comes out on Monday (April 3).

About Langara
Located in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., Canada, Langara College provides University, Career, and Continuing Studies education to more than 21,000 students annually. With more than 1,700 courses and 130 programs, Langara’s expansive academic breadth and depth allows students of all ages, backgrounds, and life stages to choose their own educational path. Langara is also known as house of teachings, a name given to it by the Musqueam people on whose unceded traditional territory the College is located.

Learn more.
Rolf Savella
Communications Officer
Langara College