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14: Dred Scott, Wong Kim Ark & Vanessa Lopez

By: Monday October 27, 2014 3:11 pm

14: Dred Scott, Wong Kim Ark & Vanessa Lopez is a film about the 14th Amendment, exploring the history of how citizenship came to be granted to all children born on U. S. soil, and the attacks that are currently being waged against that right.

The first section of the film is devoted to the case of Dred and Harriett Scott, as told through interviews with their great-great-granddaughter Lynn Madison Jackson, in addition to numerous scholars and activists.  The filmmakers do a very good job of explaining that the goal of the Scotts was primarily to establish that Harriett was free, because that would mean their two young daughters were free, not slaves.  Formerly English common law held that the status of the children followed that of their mother.

Many know that the Scotts ultimately lost their case because the court determined they were not citizens and therefore did not have status to bring it, and that after the Civil War the 14th amendment was enacted to negate that decision.

Far less well known is the case of Wong Kim Ark, a man of Chinese descent who was born in San Francisco but was denied re-entry into the country after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act.  The second part of the film is devoted to his case, which ultimately went to the Supreme Court.  The court upheld the clause of the 14th Amendment granting citizenship to children born in the United States to immigrant parents.  The film follows Sandra Wong, his granddaughter, as she explores his story.

The third section of the film is devoted to the activism of Rosario Lopez, an undocumented immigrant and her 10 year-old daughter Vanessa, who are fighting the likes of Lindsey Graham and Steve King who should probably see this film because their grasp of the 14th amendment is a bit shaky.  This section of the film is a bit less grounded and I would have liked to see someone engaged in a modern legal struggle to remain in the country, but instead there were a lot of lingering, heart-tugging shots of children crying at the prospect of being separated from their families.  Well-trod territory, but always moving.

It’s  a short film, coming in at a little over an hour, and it would be an excellent primer for anyone (but particularly children) seeking to understand the historical roots of today’s immigration fights.

Dred Scott, Wong Kim Ark and Vanessa Lopez

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).

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 [...]

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