Latest Blogs

FDL Movie Night: It’s Better to Jump

By: Monday October 20, 2014 4:15 pm

Please welcome Co-Director and Co-Producer Gina Angelone in the comments

It’s Better to Jump tells the story of the Palestinian city of Akka (literally “acre”) which is part of historic Palestine, and now sits on the coast of northern Israel.  In 1750 the Ottoman Empire ruler Daher el-Omar built a wall on the ocean side of the city, atop an 11th century Crusader wall, which has protected it from invasions over the centuries.  The wall stands from 33 to 43 feet high, 3 to 6 feet thick, and local Palestinian residents whose families have been there for 10 or 20 generations — or longer — consider it a rite of passage to jump off the wall and into the sea.

The filmmakers use this tradition as a metaphor for the spirit that’s allowed the dwindling Arab community that remains in Akka to resist attempts to displace them, in spite of the hardships that they must endure in order to stay there.   Many left during the 1948 “ethnic cleansing” of Palestine, and more recent attempts to “gentrify” the beautiful coastal city by bringing in Europeans and building it up as an arts community which further reduced the population.  In 1995 there were more than 8000 Arabs living in the old city; now that number is down to some 3000.

As the residents note, the tactics being used to discourage them from staying in their homeland constitute a “slow death,” a choking of the native population who feel like refugees, despite the fact that they were born there.  Forty percent of all industry in the city used to come from fishing, but that business has been all but wiped out due to industrial pollution that killed the fish as well as stringent military regulations that prevent boats form going out far enough to find healthy fish.  It’s hard to imagine someone sitting down and saying “how do we adopt policies that will pollute the waters so badly that it will kill the local fishing industry;” but after watching the film, you are left thinking that it’s more difficult to believe they didn’t.

“Why don’t you go live in Gaza,” one school teacher says she is told, but she explains that this is her home.  Permits are required to fix up your home in Akka, but those interviewed say such permits are not granted to Arabs, who must live in disrepair or go elsewhere.

Despite all of these shock doctrine tactics the native Palestinian population still endures, and the filmmakers wrap this around to the metaphor of jumping off the wall into the sea.  “Whoever hasn’t jumped off the wall is not from Akka,” is the old adage.  And as one local resident says, “Palestinians make leaps of faith every day.”  “It gives you a certain level of courage to face your future,” says another.

It’s Better to Jump is not a didactic, ham-fisted movie, but rather has the gentle pacing appropriate to the historic city.  The story of the Palestinian displacement is told against the beautiful backdrop of Akka, which is still lovely despite the unbelievable environmental mismanagement.  If you know someone who isn’t familiar with the Palestinian situation, or thinks they know something they don’t, it’s a very well-crafted, easy to understand film that persuades with heartfelt stories and hope, rather than fiery rhetoric and outrage. And the lovely scenery and the spirited interviewees are uplifting for anyone.

FDL Movie Night – Forward 13: Waking Up The American Dream

By: Monday October 13, 2014 2:48 pm

The filmmakers have made the entire film available on Hulu

Forward 13: Waking Up the American Dream starts off as the very personal story of how filmmaker Patrick Lovell and his family bought their first home and then lost it as a result of predatory lending practices.  It’s ironic, because Lovell himself was  producer for the nationally syndicated show HomeTeam during this time, which helped families purchase and renovate new homes who otherwise could not afford it.

His own experience caused Lovell to connect with others who had similar experiences.  He  soon joined up with philanthropist and Executive Producer Adam Bronfman and the two began to tell a story  that contextualizes Lovell’s experience within that of the entire mortgage meltdown.  They contrast the losses suffered by middle class American families during the crisis with TARP and the extraordinary bonuses that bankers were extracting after the failure of Lehmans, afraid to keep their money in their own corrupt system any more.

The film soon expands to explore the interconnectedness of problems such as our enormous investment in and dependence on fossil fuels, war for oil, climate change, plutocratic government, money in politics, the death of the American dream and how it all came together in Occupy Wall Street.  And, subsequently, how the government used its resources to crush the movement.

Ultimately the strength of Forward 13: Waking Up the American Dream lies in the tale of the awakening consciousness of the filmmakers, who try to sound the warning bell about the multiple crises we face and the dangers of a calcified, unresponsive political system.  The film is ultimately in its message that misfortune can bring people together and spur them to action, regardless of the odds against them.

FDL Movie Night: AYA: Awakenings

By: Monday October 6, 2014 4:55 pm

AYA: Awakenings begins as independent journalist Rak Razam sets out for South America to explore the burgeoning business of shamanistic tourism, replete with a Shaman convention. The film quickly detours, however, and documents Razam’s own experience with ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew made out of the jungle vine Banisteriopsis caapi, which contains an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor).

Most of the film consists of either still photographs from Razam’s journey or psychedelic graphics inspired by his experience, as he reads from his book of the same title. The most interesting part comes about halfway through when Razam smokes DMT. With the help of a western scientist called Dr. Juan, whose specialty is QEEG (Quantitative Electroencephalography), Razam has a skullcap attached to his head with gel and electrodes, and a computer reads his brainwaves during the experience.

Rakam tributes the title Awakenings to the inspiration of Terrence McKenna, who wrote in 1989:

Psychedelic shamans now constitute a worldwide and growing subculture of hyperdimensional explorers, many of whom are scientifically sophisticated. A landscape is coming into focus, a region still glimpsed only dimly, but emerging, claiming the attention of rational discourse–and possibly threatening to confound it. We may yet remember how to behave, how to take our correct place in the connecting pattern, the seamless web of all things.

Ultimately Awakenings is less an analytical documentary and more of a personal interior travelogue, and a celebration of this neo shamanistic movement. “You might think that ayahuasca is a niche subject,” he says, “but it is rapidly becoming a mainstream one that is peaking in global media. Ayahuasca could be the new global sacrament.”

FDL Movie Night: A Survey of Open Space

By: Monday September 22, 2014 4:55 pm

It takes a while to settle into watching A Survey of Open Space, the documentary by Austin visual artist Peat Duggins. Anyone looking for the filmmaker to impose dramatic narrative devices on this film about a cross-country bike trek will be sorely disappointed. There is no pumped up character conflict, no artificial suspense or second act reversals. Those [...]

Late Night: The Endless Gothic Summer

By: Tuesday August 26, 2014 7:54 pm

In Southern California, it feels as if summer is a sun-proof vampire, immortal, a never-ending gothic summer of drought and car chases, punctuated by shootings, stabbings and beatings, heartbreak and horror.  In his blog The Westsider, author, journalist and Los Angeles native Rodrigo Ribera D’Ebre recalls: People would hear more gun shots at night and [...]

Late Night: Chris Kluwe Scores Win for LGBT!

By: Tuesday August 19, 2014 7:54 pm

I don’t know a whole lot about football. In a pinch I will root for the Ravens because they are named for the quintessential Edgar Allen Poe poem (though one hopes their Super Bowl win will not live up to the poem’s refrain). Up until a couple years ago I thought the Vikings were cool, [...]

RIP: Lauren Bacall

By: Tuesday August 12, 2014 7:54 pm

Gods, I love Lauren Bacall — elegant, smart, witty, husky voiced, strong-willed. I loved her hair, her movies, her romance with Humphrey Bogart, her graceful ballsy aging. This elegant, intelligent no-BS woman has died at 89 of stroke-related complications, and with her passing a great deal of Hollywood history is gone. Her movies with Bogey were [...]

Late Night: Sometimes You Just Need Cute

By: Tuesday August 5, 2014 7:54 pm

Things all over the world suck pretty much. Hugely. And sometimes we just need a break from misery, war, death, drought, disease, fires, floods, and plague. And that’s why there are cute animal videos. I have friend who actually asked me to block him from seeing any cute animal pics and videos I might post [...]

FDL Late Night: Cameron, Wormwood Star

By: Tuesday July 29, 2014 7:54 pm

Muse, witch, magician, painter, poet: Cameron, born Marjorie Elizabeth Cameron in 1922, and one of the most inspirational figures of the last century, will be the subject of major exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art featuring art and ephemera. Opening October 11, 2014, “Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman” highlights the the publication of [...]

Late Night: Grammatical Goofing

By: Tuesday July 22, 2014 7:54 pm

I could of maybe found some other video, but this one,  its really accurate about mistakes people make in there writings. Plus I drunk a lot of expresso and surprise!! Actually tonight  I’m prepping for ArtExpoSD — I leave tomorrow at 8am–where I’m showing five artists in my booth, plus wrangling another curator, an artist [...]

support firedoglake

Saturday, October 18, 2014
2:00 pm Pacific
#Newsfail: Climate Change, Feminism, Gun Control, and Other Fun Stuff We Talk About Because Nobody Else Will
Chat with Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny about their new book. Hosted by Kevin Gosztola.

Sunday, October 19, 2014
2:00 pm Pacific
Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe
Chat with Dr. Helen Caldicott about her new book. Hosted by Dave Lochbaum.