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network 13/04/2016 - 01:00PM

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT: CINEMA POLITICA RADICAL IMAGINATION - HALIFAX

Left: Mi'kmaq filmmaker Catherine Martin drumming and singing at the screening of her film, THE SPIRIT OF ANNIE MAE. Right: Scholar, activist, and internationally-renowned spoken-word artist El Jones speaking after the screening of BLACK POWER MIXTAPE. 

CP Radical Imagination—K'jipuktuk, Mi’kma’ki (Halifax, Canada)

Halifax’s new Central Library opened its doors in January of 2015 to widespread celebration and acclaim, and with it the Radical Imagination Project inaugurated its Cinema Politica local.  

The Project was founded in 2010 as a platform to “study, analyze, foment, broadcast and promote the radical ideas that emerge from social movements.” Coordinated by Alex Khasnabish and Max Haiven, professors at Mount Saint Vincent University and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design respectively, the project is half about academic research with activists, half about generating radical discussions about key issues. In addition to screening Cinema Politica films every alternate Monday night from September to May, the RIP also hosts visiting speakers, organizes festivals, coordinates an activist skill-sharing workshop series, and helps curate a biannual “free school” for community and organizers. 

“We started this project for a few reasons,” Khasnabish explains. “First, we wanted to imagine what a form of solidarity-oriented academic research could look like that gave more to social movements than it takes away. That means thinking through how the resources of the university can be mobilized towards enabling struggles. But it’s also about thinking differently about the imagination: it’s usually seen as an individual possession. We see it as a collective process.”

This, says Haiven, is why documentary film is key to the project. “There’s nothing quite like documentary film today for allowing us to sympathize and find commonality with others’ struggles,” he notes. “When documentary is combined, as we do, with community discussions, it can be a real catalyst for imagining the world differently, and that is a crucial step towards changing the world together.”

This is why working at the new Halifax Public Library is especially important to the RIP. Khasnabish observes that “the venue allows us to attract both the usual suspects as well as a broad public who wander in. It leads to some excellent discussions.”

The CP RIP local organizes its screenings into short thematic series. They began in January of 2015 with one titled “Debt: Our Common Problem.” 

“We wanted to focus on debt as this hidden curse that we all experience in one way or another, but that keeps us isolated.” Haiven explains. “But while we did want to show that debt is indeed a common problem, we also wanted to make clear it does not affect us all equally or in the same ways. So we showed films like Debt Trap about Canadian families, but also like Life and Debt about the international financial sabotage of Jamaica, and Payback, based on Margaret Atwood’s book by the same name, which addresses among other things prisons and ecological debt.” 

They followed up this series with one titled “Whose Knowledge, Whose Power.” Screening films about intellectual property and digital rights like Terms and Conditions May Apply and We Are Legion, but also including films like Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change and Seeking Netukulimk

“For us, it’s important to do the unexpected in our series,” says Khasnabish. “We want people to begin to link struggles over copyright with struggles over ecological justice and Indigenous rights, because all these struggles are fundamentally interrelated under hetero-patriarchal white-supremacist colonial capitalism.”

The CP RIP local is currently wrapping up a series on gender justice before breaking for the summer, but plans to return to the Library and continue its highly successful series in September. More information can be found at http://radicalimagination.org

 

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