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network 29/04/2010 - 12:00AM

East Coast adventures

Svetla and I just returned from a much-needed mini-vacation on the East Coast. We took a week off from our studies (well I did) and a week off from running Cinema Politica and headed to Nova Scotia. We of course could not head to Canada's eastern-most shores without rendezvousing with some of the amazing people who run Cinema Politica locals out there.

We were delighted to meet Ray and Marge, pictured above- with us in the Monkey House, a progressive restaurant in Halifax that adheres to a strict organic and local code. The restaurant even recently hosted a bike lock competition for designers in Halifax to not only install a lock in front of the restaurant, but draw attention to the problem cyclists face in that city.

Ray and Marge run the Mahone Bay Cinema Politica, in the beautiful tiny coastal town (population 800) with much aplomb. They are the salt of the earth and keep a tight ship out there with regular screenings and even a new annual festival called "Earth Dreams." We were both inspired to meet two retirees who challenge the stereotype of the older folks who retreat to their armchairs and television sets. Nothing could be further from the truth and this country would be all that much better if we all grew up and aged as such compassionate, committed and political people.

We also had the chance—when we made a small sojourn to Nova Scotia's South Shore—to meet Andrea Cleland who started the Lunenburg Cinema Politica. Andrea is a teacher in the Class Afloat alternative school, and exudes all the qualities of someone who loves education enough to challenge its entrenched ways. Their program facilitates between 25 and 40 teenagers moving  to the absolutely beautiful and calming community of Lunenburg who live in dorms and venture out on a tall ship to learn about themselves and the world in a program that emphasizes ethics, community and participation.

While visiting with Andrea we heard the amazing tale of the 40 Class Afloat high schoolers who all managed, heroically and skilfully, to survive the sinking of their huge tall ship off the coast of Brazil last February. We of course won't be asking for those Cinema Politica DVDs back anytime soon…Andrea showed us the beautiful historic school all the Class Afloat kids attend, and the day we were there they were mostly missing, as it was a "volunteer in the community" day. While taking us on a tour of centuries-old classrooms that haven't changed, and a beautiful little school theatre space carved out of wood (where they show Cinema Politica films) she explained to us how the Cinema Politica project is being handed over to the students, instead of run by teachers like herself (Andrea is pictured at left, in the Lunenburg harbour, with me).

This small excursion to three Canadian cities and towns reinforced for us why we need to keep Cinema Politica going—or at least one reason we hadn't thought of for some time—and that is the people who keep it going. Cinema Politica is part of our lives because we believe in the power and beauty of cinema to move people and inspire people into action. And with this strong sense of purpose we end up thinking a lot about the artists who make the films and the audiences who go to see their works. But the people who make it so part of their lives to facilitate that exchange are easy to forget - especially when they are virtually invisible to us (we haven't met more than ten or so of the organizers who run our 70+ locals throughout the world, except of course for email). But they are the ones who keep this crazy dream alive, and to all of them, we owe much gratitude and respect.

Next stop: the rest of Canada + the international locals!!


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