Film series to explore social and economic problems

Justin Brake
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Protesters march through downtown streets after vacating the Occupy Vancouver site in Vancouver, B.C., Monday. The city won a court injunction to have protest tents cleared from the site by 2 p.m. Monday. In St. John’s, the Occupy movement is still active, and will participate in a new film series that begins Wednesday. — Photo by The Canadian Press

It didn’t take a lot of planning, just some strong interest and a felt need to generate important discussion within the community.

An idea that emerged from an Occupy Newfoundland general assembly at Harbourside Park just a few weeks ago is coming to fruition on Memorial University’s campus this week when the “99% Film Fest” screens its first weekly film, the Academy Award-winning 2010 documentary “Inside Job.”

Holding the series, a joint initiative between Occupy Newfoundland, MUN Project Green, Common Ground and St. John’s Citizens for Affordable Housing, should serve to “educate ourselves, to raise awareness in the community more broadly and promote discussion about possible solutions to the problems we face,” says Occupy supporter Tom Baird, an assistant professor of mathematics at MUN.

“Also, it’s sort of an outreach effort to people who might be curious about this movement, who read about it in the paper but who maybe aren’t inclined to come down to Harbourside Park and huddle in a tent with some strangers. This is a warm, comfortable environment where people can sit and watch a film that’s both entertaining and informative, and can join the discussion afterwards if they like.”

Another of the film festival’s organizers is Lori Heath, executive director of Common Ground, a community group that promotes and fosters environmentally and economically sustainable community development initiatives.

“People often think of economics as being a dry subject and one that’s difficult to understand,” she says, “but, as Marilyn Waring explains in one of the films we’d like to show called ‘Who’s Counting?’ the word economics means to take care of the house. It means making sure that the kids are fed, making sure we have access to health care and education and employment and food and opportunities to express ourselves in our communities and have a say in the decision-making process.

“Generally, people may find the topic of economics very daunting and unapproachable, but these films approach it in a very engaging way and in a way that’s very accessible,” she says.

“When you look beneath the surface the realization of how this global system operates is really shocking.”

The series’ first film, “Inside Job,” won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

“It’s concerned with telling the story of what happened during the economic collapse of 2007-2008,” says Baird, “and I think it does it in a very coherent way. I sat and watched it with my wife and she kept saying, ‘Wow, I understand what happened now and I didn’t before.’

“It ties together some of the powers of corporate influence, the finance industry and so on, and it helps explain what’s happening in the world today. It provokes this sense that there’s something wrong and something ought to be done about it.”

Heath has seen the film, too, and echoes Baird’s comments on the film’s value in bringing out a felt sense of injustice among its audiences.

“As some of the promotions for the film say, ‘If you’re not enraged at the end of this movie then you weren’t paying attention,’” she jokes.

“But this is really also an opportunity to come together and to have a conversation as a community. These films cut to the heart of the economic crisis, but we want this, as well, to be a forum for promising alternatives and a forum for people to talk with each other and to promote different types of economic models that are successfully supporting communities all around the world, including alternative economic indicators like the genuine progress indicator, like credit unions, complementary currencies, co-operatives, community financing models, local food systems.

“All these things are being tried and tested in communities all around the world and they’re working, and they’re things that anybody can be involved with.”

The “99% Film Fest” gets underway with “Inside Job” Wednesday at 6 p.m. in MUN’s Arts and Administration building, Room A1043.

Admission is free and a group discussion will follow the screening.

Future screenings will be determined soon and the intent is to show one film per week “as long as people keep showing up and are interested in keeping it going,” says Baird. “We’ve had quite a good response so far, even before showing our first film, so I think it’ll probably sustain itself for a while.”

For more information, visit Occupy Newfoundland’s website,

Organizations: Arts and Administration

Geographic location: Harbourside Park

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