A global look at the diverse resistance tactics deployed by people committed to progressive change
In 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, acclaimed filmmaker Iara Lee embarked on a journey to better understand a world increasingly embroiled in conflict and, as she saw it, heading for self-destruction. After several years, traveling over five continents, Iara encountered growing numbers of people who committed their lives to promoting change. From Iran, where graffiti and rap became tools in fighting government repression, moving on to Brazil, where musicians reach out to slum kids and transform guns into guitars, and ending in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, where photography, music, and film have given a voice to those rarely heard, CULTURES OF RESISTANCE explores how art and creativity can be ammunition in the battle for peace and justice.
CULTURES OF RESISTANCE began conceptually 10 years ago. I had always been enveloped in film, music, arts and culture, and how they all intersect, but with this project I had a particular interest in how art could be used to express opposition to injustice. In 2000, I spent time in Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar/Pakistan where I interviewed women who had suffered under the gender apartheid of Taliban rule. Out of these interviews came a short film, which I hoped would raise awareness about an issue that had largely been hidden from Western audiences. I hoped my modest contribution would spur a few people to action.
Years later, in 2003, during the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, I decided to travel to and live in the Middle East as a way to better understand a region that is so plagued by conflict in this supposedly peaceful age. It was during this period—in 2006—that I was living in Lebanon and experienced firsthand the Israeli military’s bombardment of that country. Having lived in a world that so infrequently makes any notice of the causes of human suffering in that region, I was deeply saddened and appalled by the reckless violence I saw. This experience forever cemented my commitment to social justice—in particular to creative resistance.
During this time I did not yet have a clear vision of what would come of all these experiences. But I was constantly meeting inspiring individuals who, despite living in poverty, conflict, or extreme disadvantage, held out hope for a better world. And those people who made the greatest impact did not rest on their hope as a way of coping with the present. The bravest people used it as motivation for taking action to make our world a fairer one.
From these people I have learned so much and have drawn much of my personal strength. They helped me realize that a film could hold the power not just to document the injustices that other people are suffering; they taught me that a film could also be an example of how regular people are standing up to the world’s most powerful interests everyday. That those featured in the film are mostly artists of one form or another, committed to nonviolent resistance, makes their stories all the more inspiring.