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ezra 09/06/2014 - 02:00PM

CP Fredericton Book Launch & Screening

It was a cool misty night in Fredericton, and given the lack of people on the streets the turnout for the Cinema Politica film screening and book launch was very good. Nearly 30 of us packed into the Conserver House, a three-storey heritage building in a residential neighbourhood just a stone’s throw from downtown bars and shops. On the ground floor, CP organizers had set up a projector and screen among the stacks of books, brochures and various information and knowledge clutter that is typical of delightful community spaces everywhere. 

We were all gathered to screen VESSEL, a fantastic documentary about Women on Waves, a Dutch organization made up of fearless doctors who sail international waters providing safe abortions for women in countries where such options do not exist. The women who run the organization and provide much-needed reproductive rights information and health services are an inspiring bunch, and the film is equal parts abortion politics and behind-the-scenes activist strategies and tactics.  

Before the screening I spoke for a few minutes about the new Cinema Politica book, and local organizers and a speaker from a high school reproductive rights group also spoke. After the film ended, the chairs were rearranged into a big circle and nearly 20 people stayed to have a post-screening discussion that impressively connected local concerns with issues in the film.

The Conserver House is also a stone’s throw from the abortion-providing Morgentaler Clinic, a vital resource that is now closing down due to lack of resources to keep it running. It turns out Dr. Morgentaler, while he was alive, was subsidizing the clinic to the tune of over a 100,000 dollars of his own money. Local activists in Fredericton have been engaged in a protracted battle around abortion services and women’s health, and it seems some steam has run out and public interest is waning on the issue. The anti-choice movement has of course played its usual role in distracting and draining energy from the fight for a woman’s right to choose and to accessible and safe services.

Much of this came up in the post-screening discussion, which lasted about an hour and was the kind of space created around a documentary film that reminded me of why we keep Cinema Politica going. This was “documentary activism” at its finest: multi-generational women and men from various walks of life, including Morgentaler’s sister-in-law and health-providers, engaged in a productive dialogue that took on a strategies and tactics, problem-solving shape. 

The conversation oscillated perfectly between local issues and what we had encountered in the documentary, and all who took part seemed, if not inspired, at least completely engaged in ‘talking through’ some of the key issues and challenges activists currently are up against in Fredericton.

I felt completely privileged to be part of the dialogue and the event as a whole. It was a revelatory moment when documentary and activism came together in an inclusive, productive, and politicized community space and spoke to the power of smaller, local events. 

Kudos to CP Fredericton for keeping the local strong and vital for nine years running, and I hope they’re still around in nine more, and by then are celebrating whatever progressive changes they have been part of in that community.


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