Arts Arts and Culture Student Life

New Year, New Films on Campus

What to watch on campus this month.

There is perhaps no better way to start the new year, and indeed the new semester on campus, than watching some excellent films. Concordia university welcomes back its students with what is sure to be a fantastic selection of films screening on campus this month. Unfortunately, at the time of this publication, not all schedules have been released—so keep your eyes on Cinema Politica who will return on Jan. 29.

Lucky for us, on Jan. 26, in collaboration with SHIFT Concordia, the Centre for Social Transformation which supports existing and emerging social transformation initiatives and artists, there will be a screening of Aking Senakulo (2023). Film director Jela Dela Peña is currently pursuing a BFA with Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. 

Aking Senakulo is a short film they completed in their second year under the supervision of Professor Marianna Milhorat. The film is a speculative experimental exploration of Indigenous Filipino ancestry, queerness, isolation and belonging juxtaposed with the everlooming spectres of religions and colonial histories and powers. The brief synopsis shared by Dela Peña on the director’s website paints a haunting image of what is sure to be an excellent film:

In a church, the golden light hits a figure’s wing scars. Their rosary sways from one hand, as sounds of leather against skin rings throughout the air. As they reach the altar on their knees, their hands come together in lieu of prayer. They find themselves transported to a place where they share food offerings and intimate touches with another being.”

The screening will be preceded by opening remarks from the director and followed by a Q&A session.

A welcome back to campus cannot forget to include catching this incredible film by a Concordian student, as well as the other excellent films Cinema Politic is soon to screen.

Arts Arts and Culture Community Student Life

December films at Concordia

What to watch on campus this month.

As the year comes to a close and exams, final papers and projects loom ever nearer, there are a number of excellent films screening on campus to help motivate you through your finals and make the long, cold and dark nights of December a little warmer with the gentle glow of the silver screen. 

Cinema Politica, a non-profit media arts organization dedicated to socially engaged cinema, has two final screenings for their Fall 2023 programming. On Dec. 4 at 7 p.m., Cinema Politica will host the Queer Cinema for Palestine event and premiere Foggy: Palestine Solidarity, Cinema, & the Archive (72 min). This collection of short films juxtapose archival footage, re-enactments, and present and past histories into a dialogue in tribute to historic and current activism and resistances Palestinian people. 

The films include Sultana’s Reign (Hadi Moussally), Homecoming Queenz (Elias Wakeem), Tempest In A Teapot (Amy Gottlieb), Knobs & Chai (Noor Gatih),  Nazareth (Mike Hoolboom), My Whole Heart Is With You (Essa Grayeb), Even A Dog In Babylon (Lior Shamriz) and The Poem We Sang (Annie Sakkab). This screening is dedicated to the ongoing struggle for Palestinian liberation, and not only offers film viewings, but also a vibrant space to gather, to learn, to grieve and to celebrate ongoing strength and resistance together.

On Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., Cinema Politica will screen Tautuktavuk (What We See). Co-directed by Carol Kunnuk and Lucy Tulugarjuk, this film explores the story of Inuit sisters Uyarak and Saqpinak as they attempt to connect during the beginning of the pandemic, each dealing with their trauma in their own ways. The film explores the intersecting and compounding impacts of pandemic measures, intergenerational trauma, domestic and sexual abuse, primarily through a series of video chats which attempt to bridge the physical and emotional gaps.

From Nov 3 until Dec. 15, the FOFA Gallery is hosting daily screenings between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. of Looking In, Looking Out, a new Black Arts Series presented in collaboration with the NouLa Black Student Centre and the Visual Collections Repository (VCR). The screening will showcase the work of six filmmakers of the Concordia community. This selection promises to meditate on familiar emotions and experiences, intertwining word and moving image alongside pasts, presents, and potential futures to speak to the concept of Black aliveness while still honouring the nuanced multiplicity of Black experience. The films include elemental (Ra’anaa Yaminah Ekundayo), I’m Glad You’re Here (Karl Obakeng Ndebele), Mango Lemon Soda (Emem Etti, ASK ME WHAT MY NAME IS (Desirée de Jesús), Chez Dr. Bello (Badewa Ajibade), and halves & doubles (Adam Mbowe). The series explores themes of intergenerational strength and trauma, personal grief, collective love, and more. 

More information about these films and events can be found on Cinema Politica and FOFA Gallery’s websites. With only a few weeks left in the semester, make sure to catch these films before the end of term.

Arts Arts and Culture

Someone Lives Here: A fight for affordable housing

The documentary depicts one man’s efforts to heal his city.

Concordia’s Cinema Politica hosted the Montreal premiere of the documentary Someone Lives Here on Oct. 2. Producer Zack Russell and protagonist Kahleel Seivright attended the event and took part in a Q&A after the screening. 

The documentary was shot in Toronto during the pandemic. Homelessness had increased dramatically during that time and winter was coming. Kahleel Seivright, a carpenter from Toronto, decided to start building what he called “tiny shelters,” which are insulated wooden boxes big enough to fit an adult and started distributing them in Toronto parks. The tiny shelters were designed to retain body heat. People without housing could therefore keep warm during the night instead of sleeping outside in the snow or under tents. 

His project quickly attracted attention and generated a lot of media coverage as well as generous donations through GoFundMe. During the winter of 2021, he built about 100 tiny shelters and planned to keep going. However, the city of Toronto decided to forbid the distribution of tiny shelters and got rid of every single one of them the following summer. 

The movie raises many questions regarding big cities’ management of the housing crisis. It depicts suffering and gives a voice to those who are neglected and rejected by society. It highlights the unfair distribution of resources and the challenges people face when trying to get off the streets, such as the lack of social workers, the limited and insufficient space in homeless shelters, stigmatization, and unaffordable housing. It is a hard watch,  as stated by a woman in the audience who was holding back tears.

Even though the movie ends on a discouraging note, Seivright and Russell made a point of telling the audience after the screening that they are working on new projects and are continuing to fight for better resources to help people who are suffering from the housing crisis.

“The ongoing conversation needs to be about why housing is continuing to be so expensive, [ …] regardless of the majority of people’s ability to afford it,” Seivright said on Instagram on the night of the premiere. He encouraged everyone to join him in his fight for affordable housing, saying that if everybody does their part, things will inevitably change.
Seivright also hosts the podcast Someone Lives Here, available on YouTube. It consists of interviews of people’s experience with homelessness and helps spread awareness.


Cinema Politica: Our Bodies are your Battlefields

The documentary Our Bodies are your Battlefields, screened by Cinema Politica, shows the lives of trans women in Argentina fighting for their rights and to be accepted

Image from the official trailer for “Our Bodies are Your Battlefields”

Cinema Politica screened the premiere of the documentary Our Bodies are your Battlefields on Monday, March 6 in the atrium of the Hall Building. Cinema Politica is a media arts non-profit which screens a selection of independent political films. The local at Concordia, active since 2004, is Cinema Politica’s longest running film showcase, attracting hundreds of people to their weekly screening throughout the semester. 

The film, written and directed by Isabelle Solas, shows the lives of trans activists Claudia and Violeta, as well as those of their compatriots, in their daily political struggle for acceptance in Argentina. Despite the reality of discrimination they face from upholders of the patriarchal society and trans-exclusionary feminists, among others, they manage to fight for political progress and form community with each other.

The films’ intimate portrayal of these women in both their activism and relationship to one another rings authentic. The different relationships these women have with their friends, families and each other demonstrates a vast diversity of trans experiences — something that is rarely shown and so often ignored. Claudia is close with her mother who supports her and her cause, whereas many other trans people were shunned or kicked out of their homes. They had to turn to sex work for survival, and have strived together for support and political activism in the community.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with two speakers, Anaïs Zeledon Montenegro and Elle Barbara, from the Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q), a project under CACTUS Montréal. ASSTT(e)Q is run by and for trans people, to help trans people in need of healthcare and social services. The program’s core funding is being cut in April and they are collecting donations.

Barbara shared how she related to the protagonists of the film since, prior to working at ASTT(e)Q, they were heavily involved in the grassroots project Taking What We Need which organized parties and fundraisers to give money to low-income trans feminine people in Montreal. This allowed Barbara to politicize transness. 

“That’s what transness was like to me, it is intrinsically political. And in that regard, I find the experiences depicted in the documentary are similar.”

Montenegro, who also has experience being on the streets, shared the importance of greeting people with love at ASTT(e)Q. 

“We’re trying to do our best at ASTT(e)Q to make people think that there’s hope. That’s what we talk about: hope.”

The Cinema Politica film screenings are always free with the possibility to contribute donations at the venue. Their funding also comes from the Canada Council for the Arts and membership  fees.

Upcoming Cinema Politica screenings can be found on their website. 

Ar(t)chives Arts

The displacement and forced assimilation of thousands of children in North America: Daughter of a Lost Bird film review

The film explores the ongoing cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples specifically through adoption policies

The feature documentary Daughter of a Lost Bird, directed by Brooke Pepion Swaney,  centers the story of Kendra Potter as she reconnects with her biological mother. Growing up in a white family with a white culture, she knew she was adopted, but it was only later in life that she learned she had native blood. 

Daughter of a Lost Bird is Swaney’s first feature documentary. She is from the Blackfeet nation, which was cut off from the border forming process. Swaney is most known for helping produce the first season of the All My Relations podcast, along with Matika Wilbur and Adrienne Keene. 

The term “Lost Bird” refers to native children that were adopted out of their nations, mostly by force, and never returned.

This film explores Potter’s search for her mother, understanding the forced adoption of her mother, and coming to terms that she is a direct product of forced assimilation in the ongoing cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples across Canada and the US. 

“When someone says you are Lummi, I can’t wrap my mind around that, I don’t know what that means,” states April, Kendra’s mother in the film. She was raised far from her nation, so though she finds identity in being Lummi she cannot quite comprehend it. 

The film took seven years to make, between concretely finding Potter’s mother April, breaks for mental health, and the actual shooting of the film. 

Though the film is set in what is known as the US, adoption policies and methods of Indigenous erasure were very similar to those that transpire in Canada. 

The Q&A was composed of the Swaney and Na’kuset. Na’kuset has been the executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal since 1999, and is from Saskatchewan, Treaty 6. 

Q&A of Brooke Swaney Pepion and Na’kuset, MEG ACOSTA/@city__ghost)

“Because it’s an American film, the assimilation policy that they had was named differently than it is in Canada, but the harm is the same,” Na’kuset noted. 

The assimilation of Indigenous peoples in Canada was known under the name of the Adopt Indian and Métis Project (AIM) project. On record, there were 20,000 children displaced, but as noted by Na’kuset, “the numbers are larger than that.” 

Swaney and Potter met when Potter was cast as an actress in one of Swaney’s films. It was through learning more about her adoption story and the policies of forced assimilation that Swaney wanted to produce a documentary film about Potter’s life. 

It is noticeable that Potter is a capable actress in certain scenes, as she is very comfortable as she stares directly at the camera. This has the effect that the audience almost feels like she is seeing past the camera, past the spectators, as if daring the audience to judge her.  

It’s in moments of reunification with her mom that the audience feels they are seeing a real version of Potter. She is not as aware of the camera in scenes reuniting with family members she’s meeting for the first time. 

When moving back to Montana after finishing her studies in New York, the filmmaker was able to reconnect with her family. 

“My mom and I grew up off-reservation, it was nice to come home, but also complicated; I have family members who are struggling with addiction, and I have nieces and nephews who are out there in foster care.”

Moving back to Montana let Swaney gain the knowledge that, “all of these topics are close to every Indigenous person, it’s not one’s own personal experience.” It’s a series of colonial policies that have constantly tried to erase and assimilate Indigenous folks. 

This film served to raise awareness about adoption programs in the US, and their direct impact on people’s identities and cultural losses. 

Crowd at Cinema Politica screening, DAVID BEAUDOIN/ @3.2.888

“Where I feel like there’s a huge difference is between our societies, is the native voices are so much more present and louder in Canada than in the States.”

Swaney’s commentary throughout the film provides context to the story. She comments on her discomfort at times of almost projecting what she wants Potter to feel with her mother. She ends the film by stating that Daughter of a Lost Bird is ultimately Potter’s story. 

In her closing notes, Na’kuset discusses one of the projects Native Montreal is working on. It’s a new project for housing women that seeks to offer supportive housing. In relating it to the film, she says: 

“This is how we get our children back.” By supporting native women who need housing, there is the possibility to return forcibly adopted children to their families and cultures. 


Cinema Politica returns with the powerful film BEANS

On Nov. 1, The Cinema Politica team wanted to generate conversations on the themes of land and reconciliation with this screening about the Oka crisis

Cinema Politica kicked off its fall programming on Nov.1 with a screening of the award-winning movie BEANS. The film by director Tracey Deer premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2020. BEANS recounts the story of the Oka Crisis through the eyes of 12-year-old Tekehentahkhwa, nicknamed Beans, played by Kiawenti:io. The screening was followed by a discussion with actress Brittany LeBorgne who plays Karahwen’hawi, a member of the Mohawk community, in the film.

“The occupation of an ancient pine forest on the Mohawk reserve of Kanesatake is in its fourth month. The people here are protecting a burial ground from being levelled for a golf course expansion by the neighbouring town of Oka,” explained a voice in the movie’s trailer. The Oka Crisis occured in 1990 in response to a golf course expansion project, which immediately faced resistance from the Mohawk community. The official start date of the crisis was July 11, 1990, when Quebec’s police force intervened in the conflict. The Mohawks had been blocking the road leading to the piece of land since March, and the city of Oka had tried pressuring them to bring their barricade down, without any success.

The Mohawks of Kahnawake were also involved in the conflict, as they blocked the Honoré Mercier bridge in support of the Kanesatake community. In August, the Canadian army came in to provide back-up to the local police force. The events created tension between the residents of the surrounding cities and the Mohawk communities. The violent crisis concluded on Sept. 26, 1990, when the Mohawk resistance came to an agreement with the army.

The film presents these historical events through the coming-of-age story of Beans who lives in the Mohawk community of Kanesatake. The young girl is building her identity as she hopes to enter a private high school, and tries to fit in with a group of older teenagers. She is faced with the reality of the Oka crisis, with the film showing the anger and fear growing within her as she experiences the violence taking place during the summer of 1990. The lives of Beans and her family, including her mother Lily and little sister Ruby played by Rainbow Dickerson and Violah Beauvais respectively, as well as the greater community are complemented by archival videos of the actual events.

In BEANS, Deer highlights the violence and racism experienced by the Mohawks. The film is an eye-opening and touching depiction of the reality of the conflict. The director was inspired by her personal experience of the Oka crisis. “I was Beans. I was twelve-years-old when I lived through an armed stand-off between my people and the Quebec and Canadian governments known as The Oka Crisis. The Mohawk Nation of Kanesatake and Kahnawà:ke stood up to a formidable bully — and won. That summer I knew I wanted to become a filmmaker and vowed to one day tell this story,” wrote Deer in her notes on the film.

Deer received the TIFF Emerging Talent Award 2020 after releasing BEANS. The film was part of the festival’s Top Ten for Canada list and won The Best Motion Picture Award at the Canadian Screen Awards, among other accolades.

For Rania Salawdeh, assistant coordinator for Cinema Politica, BEANS touched on important current issues. “We really wanted to have this kind of conversation around the lands that we currently live in, so everyone relates to it to a certain extent because it’s a locationality that they know, it’s a place that they’re aware of, it’s a history that they do not know but that they are positioned in. And I think that was a feeling that we wanted to provoke in the audiences,” she said.

Since 2003, Cinema Politica’s mission has been to present political films from independent creators that touch on current themes and issues. For Salawdeh, the conversation following the screening of a film is an important part of the experience. “We also need not only to consume films but also contextualize films and see how we as audiences can interact with the film materials as well. […] There’s that relation I think, between seeing a political film and having a political conversation,” she said.

Cinema Politica will be presenting its next screening on Nov. 15 at La Sala Rossa. Titled Queer for Palestine, the program will feature several short films created by artists from Palestine and Lebanon. The presentation is part of the 10-day Queer Cinema for Palestine Festival.


Visual courtesy of Maia Iotzova


Spotlight on BIPOC artists should be unlimited, not constrained to the shortest month of the year.

 Clear out your schedule to make way for these important celebrations

As February begins, one better make space in their calendar for the number of events that will be happening this month. For indeed, the second month of the year will be full of activities because of “Black History Month,” a title that was given in 1926 as a celebration of African-American heritage. BHM today has seriously moved away from “African-american” heritage to completely encompass ALL of black culture.

During this month, a number of galleries aim to showcase works by black artists, and Concordia is no different. The Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) has recently selected their artists for the month’s pop-up exhibitions around campus, they encouraged “submissions by all artists who identify as a person of African descent.” Interesting choice of words FASA, black and African are not synonymous. Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square!

While dedicating a part of the year for minorities certainly is an important step towards inclusion, it is also important to remember that these artists are there all year—and should be celebrated every day; not only as Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, (BIPOC), but as artists, and most importantly as human beings.

In any case, here are some things happening this February.

Jan. 27 marked three years since the Quebec mosque shooting, and Cinema Politica screened The Mosque: a community struggle in memoriam, and on Feb. 3, there was a screening of First Voices: an evening of Indigenous cinema as part of First Voices Week—and many more initiatives.

The prestigious annual Vision Celebration Gala, hosted by Black Theatre Workshop, is the official launching pad for Montreal’s Black History Month celebrations that took place on Feb. 1. Their Facebook event describes it as an event serving to pay homage to outstanding Black artist changemakers who contribute to the development of arts in Canada. It celebrates the vision of growth, solidarity and unity inspired by the great historical figure, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  (Stay tuned for my coverage of this next week.)

Many organizations are making sure to give a platform to black voices. For example,  Phi, a centre for contemporary art offers  Le Mois de l’histoire des Noirs: prendre la parole chez Phi. At the Cinémathèque Québécoise, there is a series of movies celebrating black lives, and honouring their history for the entire month of February—especially the renowned Kenbe la, jusqu’à la victoire. Shot between Haiti and Montreal, it is the story of an artist and militant, a black woman, who in spite of her sickness, strives to create a permaculture project.

February is not only reserved for the black community when it comes to Montreal but for a number of people of colour. For example, Cinema Politica at Concordia has made it their moral imperative to showcase a movie each week about POCs’ struggles—from First Nations to the Black community.

While at times it could be on a positive note and a sort of honouring, one can’t help but wonder why they all get crammed into 28, sometimes 29 days. Spotlight on BIPOC artists should be unlimited, not constrained to the shortest month of the year.




Graphic by @sundaeghost.


A platform for creativity and healing

The personal and the political, the individual and the communal, the historic and the contemporary are all explored and considered within Hyper Real. In a collaboration between the VAV Gallery and Art Matters, the month of November has welcomed a range of events related to contemporary black art. With an interdisciplinary art exhibition, a film screening and a healing workshop led by Sisters In Motion and Shanice Nicole, these events celebrate November as a month of black history.

As stated by the VAV Gallery in their description of the three events, Black History Month in February can leave artists overworked and with a lack of support and exposure during the rest of the year. The VAV and Art Matters hope to change this by making November a month to celebrate the work of artists of colour and provide a platform for exploration, creativity and healing.

Made up of a range of complex and dynamic artworks from nine of Concordia’s undergraduate artists of colour, the work featured in Hyper Real ranges from video and photography to painting, print and sculptural installation. Each work explores a distinct theme within the overarching focus of black culture, identity and history. The varied works play into each other, creating a full, dynamic and overall emotional exhibition.

Artworks on display included a diptych by David Durham, titled Hidden Figures. The two works mix acrylic paint, mixed media collage and coffee to create striking images of two ambiguous figures. The paintings find ties to the history of coffee and the significant role it played in the slave trade and colonization. With the continued presence and consumption of coffee today, the works acknowledge this history, while also considering its role and presence in the contemporary world.

Braids, by artist Theran Sativa consists of a series of woodcut and and wood burned prints on stained paper. As explained in the artist’s statement, Sativa, who specializes in print media and fibres work, looks at black identity and black culture while also incorporating her own experiences. Meaning is found in every aspect of the artwork—the artist draws a  connection between the intricate process of printmaking and the act of braiding or twisting hair, through the time and care spent on both practices.



On Nov. 22, in connection with Cinema Politica, Hyper Real also hosted a film screening as part of the Black History Month. This screening featured three films, all directed by women of colour: Black Men Loving by Ella Cooper, Yellow Fever by Ng’endo Mukii, and Ninth Floor by Mina Shum.

The screening began with Black Men Loving, a film that questions the typical representations of black fatherhood while talking to black Canadian fathers. Made invisible by these negative representations, this film and the fathers featured can reclaim the stereotypes often placed on black men by society.

Yellow Fever incorporates mediums of poetry, dance and movement to address ideal beauty standards for women, specifically those related to colonialism. Colonialist history and actions perpetrate these ideals, particularly those of skin-lightening and hair-straightening.

The feature documentary film, Ninth Floor, looks at the anti-racist protest of 1969 at Concordia (then Sir George Williams University). The film highlights the ties still present between the protest and the contemporary context of the racist allegations made towards the university by splicing footage of the event with recent interviews.

As part of the VAV and Art Matters Hyper Real event series, the He(art) Healing Workshop scheduled for Nov. 29 will be led by Sisters In Motion and Shanice Nicole, a feminist educator, writer and spoken-word artist. The workshop will provide a safe space for people of colour, women and femme-identifying people to share their stories and heal. It is open to everyone, however priority will be given to black students, with 15 spaces reserved specifically for BIPOC students.

The He(art) Healing Workshop will take place in the VAV Gallery on Nov. 29, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Spots are limited. Those interested can register online.

Hyper Real will be exhibited in the VAV Gallery until Nov. 30. The gallery is open between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. from Monday to Friday.




Student Life

Naloxone 101: Frontlines of the opioid crisis

Saving lives and breaking down stigmas with public education

“I’m here today because there isn’t a very effective public education program,” said Richard Davy, a first-year social work student at McGill, after wrapping up the first in a series of naloxone training sessions he’s holding in November. To Davy’s delight, his first presentation on Nov. 7, which amassed an assorted crowd of students, community members and TV news crews, was a success. “People aren’t aware of this, even though we’ve known about naloxone for what seems like forever,” he added.

Naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan, is the substance used to reverse an opioid overdose. Once administered, either nasally or through muscular injection, the naloxone blocks opioid receptors in the brain and temporarily alleviates some of the life-threatening effects of opioids. In cases of accidental overdose, it is often family, friends or bystanders who are tasked to recognize and treat an overdose, so the naloxone kits are designed to be easy-to-use for non-medical professionals.

Naloxone is also fairly easy to access; in 2017, the Quebec government began offering free naloxone kits in Quebec pharmacies to anyone 14 or older. The decision was made in reaction to the rising opioid-related hospitalization rates across Canada over the past decade. According to former Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, this was also part of a comprehensive strategy to address the public health emergency in the province that was declared after a spike in fentanyl overdoses in the summer of 2017.

Despite removing significant barriers to harm-reduction tools, the provincial government’s comprehensive strategy seems to be missing a key piece: public education. There remains a widespread lack of practical education that could equip community members with the skills and confidence required to capitalize on these resources. A 2017 opioid awareness survey by Statistics Canada found that only seven per cent of Canadians know how to both obtain and administer naloxone. Less than 30 per cent of respondents agreed that they would be able to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose.

Richard Davy, a first year social work student at McGill, held a series of naloxone training sessions throughout November. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Grassroots community organizations have long been doing the harm-reduction work the provincial government has only recently began to adopt in principle and practice. In 2013, Méta d’Âme, a Montreal-based “self-help organization ‘by and for’ people who depend on opioids,” created Prévenir et Réduire les Overdoses Former et Accéder à la Naloxone (PROFAN), a project focused on reducing opioid-related deaths through harm-reduction tactics, mainly the use of and access to naloxone.

PROFAN is among many longstanding independent initiatives offering informal overdose 101 education and, despite consistent action on a community level, there has yet to be a government-subsidized education program that offers the same hands-on experience.

“[Naloxone training] should be part of our repertoire of first aid. We should have an epipen in our first aid kit; we should have a naloxone kit in our first aid kit,” said Davy. “And again, that begins with education. That begins with the government getting behind it, with schools getting behind it, so we can start to raise awareness.”

Those aged 15 to 24 are within the demographic with the fastest growing rate of hospitalization for opioid poisoning according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Yet youth and young adults are not formally presented with this information in an educational setting, nor are they given any collective incentive to seek it out. “If youth are going to [use substances/drugs], and they are, we need to at least give them harm-reduction tools,” said Davy. Seeing both the need for and lack of practical education at his university, Davy stepped in.

The training session not only includes step-by-step instructions of how to detect signs of an opioid overdose and how to respond using naloxone, Davy deliberately contextualized the issue to present a more comprehensive, human view of drug use and addiction. “As social workers, we’re really encouraged to look at things through a holistic lens, including the more invisible stigmas and oppressions, and I think it makes it much easier to have that deep sense of compassion for people,” said Davy. “I see the pain. I have my own history of trauma, and I connect with that when I see it in other people.”

“The absence of public education encourages more stigma and discrimination, which discourages treatment and access to treatment,” said Yamin Weiss, a fellow McGill social work student invited by Davy to share his lived experience with drug addiction and recovery. “Public opinion is huge to people internalizing a problem of addiction. A lot of people don’t seek help because they’re so stigmatized.”

Each participant left Davy’s training session with a fully-stocked naloxone kit and a new set of practical skills. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Naloxone may be the antidote to opioid overdose, but, according to Weiss, it will take much more to solve the underlying structural issues. “Drug addiction and recovery is something for the public to be concerned about and to care about,” said Weiss. “And public acceptance can only happen through public awareness, which is why we have Naloxone training like today.”

In its federal opioid awareness campaign, the Canadian government has broadly recognized social and structural stigma as being a pervasive force impacting the quality of and access to care for people with problematic drug use. Under the bolded “How You Can Help” heading of the government website, it is suggested that we, as Canadians, “can learn about substance use disorder and educate ourselves about the medical condition.” An auspicious idea, yet rendered ineffective without corresponding educational opportunities provided on a broad scale.

Each participant left Davy’s training session with a fully-stocked naloxone kit, a new set of practical skills, and a more nuanced view of an issue that may have seemed insurmountable from the outset. “One of my intentions with this today was to take away a little bit of the fear. Take away some of that fear and now we’re progressing” said Davy.

Davy will hold a Naloxone 101 workshop at Concordia (CSU Offices H-711) on Thursday, Nov. 22. Admission is free, but due to overwhelming demand, participants are encouraged to register beforehand via Facebook to secure a spot.

Photos & video by Mackenzie Lad

Student Life

Filmmaking meets anti-colonial education

Le Frigo Vert’s Anti-Colonial Feast expands into a week-long series of panels, workshops and screenings

Le Frigo Vert returns this year with its Anti-Colonial Feast. This time, they’re partnering with Cinema Politica to include the art of filmmaking in anti-colonial education. The events are also presented with QPIRG Concordia, People’s Potato and Midnight Kitchen.

“Because we’re a health-food store with a focus on environmental issues, we really try to make it clear that we feel that social justice and environmental organizing should be rooted in Indigenous solidarity,” said Hunter Cubitt-Cooke, an employee and organizer at Le Frigo Vert. “It’s often never mentioned when we talk about the environment or social issues. For us, that’s what we’re trying to get people to think about, and be involved in.”

“[The feast] is co-organized with QPIRG, Cinema Politica and Midnight Kitchen, and they all have different networks,” Cubitt-Cooke said. He praised the broader audience they will hopefully be reaching this year, thanks to the diverse networks from each organization involved. “The main goal is education for students and people who might not be involved in Indigenous solidarity.”

Le Frigo Vert hopes to expand their outreach in order to spread the importance of Indigenous solidarity and history. This year, instead of a one-night event, a series of events revolving around Indigenous solidarity and education will take place from Nov. 20 to 26.

Upcoming events:

On Nov. 20, Michelle Wouters will give an Introduction to Indigenous Solidarity & History workshop at QPIRG Concordia on 2100 Guy St., Suite 205, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wouters is a Sixties Scoop and breast cancer survivor who was adopted by white Europeans and came to Montreal in 1990. She studied humanistic studies at McGill University, and graduated the day after the Quebec referendum of 1995.

A three-hour panel on Indigenous People and Criminalization will take place in Le Frigo Vert on 1440 Mackay St. on Nov. 21, and will begin at 5:30 p.m. Speakers will include Sheri Planteau, an Indigenous mother from Winnipeg residing in Montreal, who was incarcerated for 15 years, and Vicki Chartrand, a Bishops University professor whose focus is on incarceration, criminalization and imprisonment as a colonial institution.

On Thursday, Nov. 22, the Native Friendship Centre will open its doors for the Anti-Colonial Feast. Before digging into the food, there will be a screening of RECLAMATION by Thirza Cuthand. This collaboration is part of The Next 150: Documentary Futurism, a project started by Cinema Politica aimed to share radical and independent documentaries. Although the food is free, the event itself is a fundraiser for the Native Friendship Centre and the Kanehsatà:ke Longhouse land defense fund.On Monday Nov. 26, Cinema Politica Concordia will conclude the Anti-Colonial Week events with the Canadian premiere of First Daughter and the Black Snake. Following the film, protagonist Winona LaDuke and director Keri Pickett will join the audience for a Q&A.

Feature film still from RECLAMATION, directed by Thirza Cuthand

Student Life

A new chapter for documentary films

Envisioning inclusion and documenting the imagined future of marginalized groups

At first glance, ‘Documentary Futurism’ might seem like an oxymoron—if the future has yet to happen, how can it be documented in the tradition of nonfiction storytelling? In their newest project, Cinema Politica seeks to answer that question the way they know best; through the creation and sharing of radical, independent documentaries.

“We came up with this idea of documentary futurism through being inspired by all of the Indigenous film programming we’ve been doing, in collaboration with Indigenous filmmakers and curators,” said Ezra Winton, co-founder and director of programming of the Cinema Politica film network.

“It’s bringing together documentary conventions and ideas of speculation and the imagination, even the fantastical.” Winton noted that, while nonfiction and speculation has been brought together in other forms, the combination has largely gone untouched in the documentary world.

Enhior:hén:ne [Tomorrow], directed by Roxann Whitebean. Enhior’hén:ne explores Mohawk children’s predictions about the state of mother earth 200 years into the future.
“The idea of being forward-looking with documentary has partially come out of 15 years of programming documentaries where the vast majority have focused on the past and the present, and the future part is always just the last 10 minutes,” said Winton. “We’re more interested in the whole thing being more forward-looking and that means not just envisioning inclusion, but ideas about social justice.”

After receiving the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) New Chapter grant, the project itself started to shift from an imagined future to a reality.

“We called [the CCA] right away to ask, is this just to celebrate, or can this be critical?” recalled Winton. “And they told us they’re calling it the New Chapter for a reason. That they’re more interested in critical perspectives and less about national chauvinism.”

Project coordinator James Goddard came on board not long after, bringing with him knowledge of afrofuturism and experience working in the interdisciplinary speculative arts.

Enhior:hén:ne [Tomorrow], directed by Roxann Whitebean.
Goddard points to the work of Indigenous futurism and afrofuturism, the latter having garnered much attention since the recent release of Black Panther, as the driving force behind the new genre. “[People] are interested in the ways in which marginal groups tell stories about the future,” he said.

“The importance of that, especially for Indigenous groups in Canada, is that there have been literal legislative maneuvers right up until the 90s that the government was doing to erase Indigenous people, to eradicate the possibility of a future. So when Indigenous people tell stories about their presence in the future, it’s an important form of resistance. And that’s true of almost every marginalized community that has experienced a history of erasure.”

Cinema Politica put out a call for film proposals in September 2017. They received over 70 applications, which were then passed on to a panel of jurors for deliberation.

“It was doubly experimental because we removed ourselves from the selection process too,” added Goddard. “Had we played more of a role in the actual selection process, more of our pre-existing ideas about what we wanted from the project would have bled into that.”

We might have been heroes / Nous aurions pu être des héros, directed by Andrés Salas-Parra. In a world with nothing left to mine, communication has become the main resource for humanity to exist. The challenge? To stay connected.

Among the jurors is Nalo Hopkinson, a prolific author of six novels, including Brown Girl in the Ring, which Goddard described as a “landmark text for speculative fiction and afrofuturism.” Joining her is Skawennati, a media artist whose work addresses the past and present from an Indigenous perspective, and award-winning filmmaker Danis Goulet, who produced, wrote and directed the film Wakening, a source of inspiration for the project.

The jury deliberated based on their collective interpretation of the project goals, finally arriving at the 15 films commissioned to inaugurate the new genre. “There’s a lot of variation in the themes they deal with. Obviously a lot of the films deal with environmental collapse, one film in particular focuses on exploring sexuality and gender variants, there’s a film that looks at corporate culture, and a number of the Indigenous films engage with the idea of what happens after the settlers leave,” said Goddard.

“We really encouraged the artists to interpret it as they wanted to, politically, aesthetically, everything. We just basically set the canvas, and even then the edges of the canvas can still unfurl,” said Winton. “My expectations were just that this was going to be interesting and hopefully, probably, amazing. And my expectations were met.”

In the tradition of Cinema Politica, Winton hopes the films will not only start conversations about the alternate realities they present, but serve as a catalyst for grassroots social movements unafraid to look towards an imagined, brighter future. “We’re always tackling present, day-to-day issues, and that’s important, but also imagining a post-capitalist, post-colonial, post-gender binary, post-whatever it is, it’s exciting and it can be politically transformative.”

Featured film still from Lost Alien, directed by Tobias c. van Veen.

Student Life

An exploration of unresolved family conflict

Memories of a Penitent Heart delves into the height of the AIDS crisis at Cinema Politica screening

Cecilia Aldarondo’s documentary, Memories of a Penitent Heart, began with a question: “If we only remember the good things about the people we love, what do we lose?” Her search for the answer led to the excavation of a guarded family history at the site of her uncle Miguel’s death. The documentary screened at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Feb. 15 as part of Cinema Politica’s winter series, in conjunction with the Concordia University Community Lecture Series on HIV/AIDS.

Miguel, who died of AIDS complications when Aldarondo was only six, became an elusive figure in her family. A cross-generational game of broken telephone seemed to obscure the circumstances of his death and the nature of his life. “I started sensing that something was really amiss in the way that he was talked about,” Aldarondo said. A persistent curiosity sent her back a generation to the height of the AIDS crisis in New York City, where her uncle lived at the time, and to the doorstep of his lost lover. “It is a personal film; it’s about family,” Aldarondo said. “It’s a film about memory.”

The story is guided by the tangible, material objects that house these memories: handwritten letters, dusty negatives, reels of Super 8 home movies, photographs—a seemingly endless trove of assorted archives. Aldarondo unpacks them on screen, weaving in the residual people and places from Miguel’s life through intimate interviews and the construction of a family tree with new, unexpected branches.

Polaroid photos of Miguel and his family, as seen in Memories of a Penitent Heart.

The film grapples with the complexity of Miguel’s identity, fractured by the social circumstances of his life. His experience as an immigrant in New York City, at a time when racism, homophobia and the stigma around AIDS were pervasive forces, placed Miguel in the precarious position of a cultural outsider.

The nuances of his identity were reserved for specific audiences, none of whom accepted Miguel in his entirety. “Popular depictions of bigotry tend to be extreme,” Aldarondo said of her uncle’s limited belonging in American society. “The story of exclusion tends to be more subtle.”

Over the course of the film, Aldarondo resurrects Miguel as the multidimensional person he was, not just who his family wanted him to be remembered as: Miguel the son, the brother, the uncle, the friend. He was also known as “Michael” the American actor to some, and Miguel the gay man, the Catholic, the Puerto Rican, the outsider to others.

It was important for Aldarondo to recognize the overbearing presence of religion throughout Miguel’s life, starting with his upbringing in an ultra-religious family in Puerto Rico. “Part of what I think about is the secularization of narratives around AIDS, and the way in which we talk about this notion that religion was only ever bad for queer people,” she said. “It forced me to try to see things in a more nuanced way.”

Aldarondo had to acknowledge her own contemporary biases and relationships with the people involved to reconcile the social and cultural chasms opened up by time. “It’s an ethical minefield,” she admitted. Bridging the gap between generations also meant navigating the devastating aftermath of the AIDS crisis. “I was really ill-prepared for the level of pain and unresolved grief that they all felt as a community,” said Aldarondo about members of the gay community who knew Miguel.

A collection of family photographs, as seen in Memories of a Penitent Heart.

The documentary depicts how the AIDS crisis, as well as the art, activism and social repercussions it produced, doesn’t occupy the same space in contemporary dialogue as other social movements from the past.

Like Miguel’s story, the epidemic is largely remembered through the lens of the mainstream media, a depiction that isn’t necessarily representative of the entire complex struggle. Aldarondo learned that identity politics were as present among the communities affected by the AIDS crisis as they were in Miguel’s own life.

“I do think of the film as a kind of intimate activism,” Aldarondo said, referencing the feminist phrase: “The personal is political.” Even as she encountered criticism that personal narratives do not belong in activist documentaries, Aldarondo remained steadfast in her belief that individual, human stories are the way to access bigger social issues. Telling stories to a mainstream audience that would have otherwise gone unheard is, in itself, a political act, she explained.

If Memories of a Penitent Heart is a walk down memory lane, then it is also a trek deep into turbulent, uncharted territory. Though the film began as a search for closure, it becomes apparent that an ultimate resolution can’t be reached. “It’s not like we know the definitive story of Miguel,” Aldarondo said. “He’s gone. It’s more about his absence.”

As much as the film is about revisiting old wounds left by shame and denial, the healing process takes place in the aftermath. Memories of a Penitent Heart fills in the gaps in memory so that what’s gone isn’t forgotten. “In a crisis like the AIDS crisis, there were so many people jockeying for power over that moment,” Aldarondo said. “It’s trying to sort of give him his moment back, in a way.”

Feature photo taken by Mackenzie Lad

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