Image: Returning Home, VIFF 2021
The Titanic sank in 1912, leaving only 705 survivors. Among them were six Chinese men whose stories were previously lost to history after they were denied entry to America due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. Masterfully intertwining the history of American immigration policy at the time of the Titanic to contemporary views on race and citizenship, The Six uncovers the sacrifices and discrimination these men suffered, finally granting them their rightful place in history.
Captivating images of the Salish Sea tell a tale of epochal survival for its apex species: the southern resident killer whale. From the northern edges of Vancouver Island to Oregon’s Lower Snake Rivers, two passionate filmmakers connect with activists, Indigenous leaders, and renowned scientists to understand the fate of the orcas and find solutions to our most pressing environmental threats. A vital, eye-opening analysis of interdependence, humbly offering the next generation a conscious path forward.
In his project The Repatriation of the White Cube, Dutch ironist Renzo Martens seeks out Congolese workers at two Unilever palm oil plantations and suggests a profit-share model where the workers will get paid for their art, which will be shown in galleries in the West. Martens casts himself as salesman, but also knowingly steps aside for a moving portrait of sculptor Matthieu Kasiama.
Portraits From A Fire
Undaunted by the paltry audiences that turn up to watch his DIY films on the Tl’etinqox Reserve, teenage Tyler (William Magnus Lulua) remains convinced that he’s bound for bigger things. But when a DV tape resurfaces that casts new light on his family’s history, Tyler must abandon escapism in favour of unearthing difficult truths. Mingling authenticity and invention, this accomplished open-hearted first feature by Trevor Mack asserts that where there is trauma, there is also the opportunity for healing.
Intertwining narratives concerning residential school survivors, including Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Jack-Webstad, and Indigenous peoples’ relationship with imperiled wild Pacific salmon, Sean Stiller’s documentary is a revelatory testament to resilience. Through stunning cinematography and clear-eyed testimonies, it lays bare the ravages of colonialism, illustrates what it means to be in good relationship with the land, and shares how healing people and healing the natural world are synonymous.