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network 26/06/2015 - 10:00AM

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT: CINEMA POLITICA WATERLOO

With so many dedicated and tireless groups, organizations and volunteers running all the Cinema Politica locals that make up our network, we thought it would be apropro to help paint a picture of the sprawling abstract thing known as "Cinema Politica" by zooming in to individual locals. Periodically we will hear from many of our locals about their activities, histories, challenges, triumphs, and more. For our sixth spotlight, we asked CP Waterloo to send us their thoughts. Their response, which was written collectively by the local, is below.

The five years that Cinema Politica has been active in Waterloo have illustrated that its magic lies in its ability to magnify the actions of the few. Since the fall of 2014, we, the few, includes four undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Waterloo and a staff member from the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group. Although we are small, we bring experience and passion from many corners of the social justice community, having organized around issues of class, race, gender, indigenous rights, environmental issues, and low social and political engagement among the five of us. As active members of these communities, one of the most exciting aspects of coordinating Cinema Politica in Waterloo has been facilitating question and discussion periods after each film, often with the help of a guest speaker, to ground the documentaries in local contexts. We host these discussions in the café attached to the theatre where the screenings take place, which provides an intimate and cozy setting for the audience to decompress and reflect on the films. It is through these discussions and question periods that we get to observe the kind of insight and connections that the documentaries have opened up to audience members, in addition to providing a more personal context that is often required to stimulate action.

Set in our local independent theatre, the Princess Cinemas, we have had the opportunity to create a much-needed space to spark important conversations that contribute to already active social justice work. As we continue to experiment with different methods for drawing the whole community into conversations about social justice, we have found that Cinema Politica is one platform that holds a lot of potential. Our CP chapter seeks to fulfill the potential that this space provides us by connecting with our local community and illuminating locally relevant issues.

Initiated by the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG), CP has established a steady presence across the UW campus and, more recently, in the city of Waterloo. We recently moved into Uptown Waterloo with the intention of drawing a greater community audience, in addition to frequent collaborations with other social and environmental justice groups in the community, such as LSPIRG, Waterloo 350, and the Palestine Solidarity Action Group. As a campus-run project, we choose three films per term according to a relevant theme, which we often try to coordinate with other active initiatives. In the fall term of 2014, for example, we focused on Israel/Palestine and held our films in conjunction with the launch of the Palestine Solidarity Action Group’s Ethical Collaboration campaign (similar to BDS). We knew that there was a tendency for people to steer away from polarizing political issues so we used CP as a platform to get the conversation started in a way that required very little personal investment. Although it can be difficult to gauge the success of our screenings on a larger scale, reconnecting with some of the audience members in the months following those screenings and hearing them remark on certain aspects of the films that continue to affect them in some way has been both rewarding and encouraging.

As WPIRG continues to galvanize the student body around important issues such as rising tuition rates, environmental destruction, exploitation of student renters, and unethical university partnerships, CP continues to be a crucial starting point to engage community members and students, and energizing people to become more active. Experiencing and witnessing the power of the documentary as a powerful platform for personal engagement are exciting moments for us!