Thursday 27 September 2012

Concordia's Cinema Politica has grown from a small nucleus of film buffs to an international network

In 2003, a small group of Concordia University film buffs got together and decided they wanted to see some alternative, non-commercial documentary films. They started out in with small screenings every couple of weeks, says Ezra Winton, BA 05, MA 07, co-founder and director of programming for Cinema Politica (CP).

Word of the film series quickly spread and “it wasn’t long before it was standing room only and people were sitting on the floor. Students were hungry for alternative media and perspectives, for the under-represented stories,” explains Winton.

CP moved to weekly screenings, the group incorporated, and the idea began to spread. Today there are 90 CP chapters (they like to use the union term “locals”), 20 of them international, though only one is in the United States.

The Concordia local holds weekly screenings Mondays at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Auditorium, Room H-110 of the Henry F. Hall Building (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.). Attendance averages 400 people; screenings are free or by donation, and open to the public. This year’s offerings were chosen for the theme ‘resistance tactics.’

Winton says they receive hundreds of film submissions. Local organizers suggest titles and, if the interest is great enough, the selection committee gives its approval.

The films are by independents, not large studios, meaning “the artists have a lot of control. The narratives and perspectives are those that are often invisible in the mainstream media.”

A couple of the 2011-2012 season's films were about people who have gone to prison for their activism. If a Tree Falls: a Story of the Earth Liberation Front is “a sympathetic portrait of the values and motivations behind actions” – spectacular arsons committed against businesses the ELF accused of destroying the environment – “that can seem pretty extreme.” The film also raises important questions about what is and isn’t effective when it comes to social protest, says Winton.

One film Winton was particularly excited about was The Interrupters, which held its Canadian premiere on Monday, September 26, 2011. The film, directed by Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame, showcases the work of (which changed its name in 2012 to, a group of community organizers who fearlessly insert themselves into the cycle of youth violence on the streets of Chicago.

Find the 2012-13 program of CinemaPolitca films

Article originally published at ConcordiaNOW Sept. 28, 2011.

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