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Bringing political films to all

For a small fee, Cinema Politica’s entire digitized catalog now available to subscribers
August 11, 2017
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By Lucas Napier-Macdonald

Concordia-based Cinema Politica, which organizes community and campus screenings of independent political film and video worldwide, has launched a streaming service granting subscribers unlimited access to its online catalog for $5.99 a month.

The films represent what co-founder and director of programming Ezra Winton, BA 05, MA 07, calls “radical committed documentaries,” or works that challenge societal superstructures.

Ezra Winton and filmmakers Roxann Whitebean and Nakuset Cinema Politica’s Ezra Winton (centre) with filmmakers Roxann Whitebean (right) and Nakuset (left) at a fall 2016 screening of Whitebean’s film on the 1990 Oka Crisis, Legend of the Storm.

“Radical committed documentaries push a new agenda, or an agenda that’s more subverted,” says Winton, assistant professor at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. “They challenge structures of oppression and name systemic problems like capitalism, patriarchy and heteronormativity.”

He contrasts these films with “liberal consensus documentaries,” his term for movies that reconfirm viewers’ previously held values and beliefs, and advance their own minor agendas.

“Liberal consensus documentaries make people feel like they’ve done their part, but they’re not going to feel like they’re implicated in a system of racial or sexual hierarchy, for instance,” Winton says.

Cinema Politica subscribers would for example never find on its website Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011), which Winton denounced as “a poorly made and intellectually vapid documentary” in an essay for POV magazine.

Cinema Politica screening of George Kurian’s The Crossing The Cinema Politica screening of George Kurian’s The Crossing, a firsthand account of Syrian refugees seeking asylum, at Concordia in 2016.

The film, directed by Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock, is a meta-documentary about corporate sponsorship entirely funded by those sponsors.

As Winton elaborates, the film “trades on activist impulses and promises a critical examination of the marketing and public relations world,” and yet “ultimately serves to uphold the status quo of crass commercialism, free market capitalism and the commodification of culture.”

Discomforting

Subscribers to Cinema Politica service would instead find discomforting films like Richard Brouillette’s 2008 documentary Encirclement: Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy. The film chronicles the spread of the ideology of neoliberalism, which invites the private sector into sacrosanct parts of society such as education and health care.

Winton hopes these films “activate” viewers, or compel them to action.

“In the liberal consensus variety of films, the idea is: ‘Make a small change in your life.’ Make sure you recycle” he says. “Or, as suggested in An Inconvenient Truth [the 2006 documentary featuring Al Gore], make sure you use energy efficient light bulbs.”

Conversely, in radical committed documentaries, “ideally the audience isn’t just informed, or isn’t just engaged, but they’re at that next level which is they’re activated,” Winton says. “They’re going to get involved in changing the structures through social movements and collectives.”

Winton reports that this type of activation isn’t uncommon. He and his colleagues often receive emails audience from members telling them that a Cinema Politica film has inspired them to go out and join a social movement.

People curious about Cinema Politica’s content are invited to try the service for free for two weeks. If they decide to subscribe, they can either pay $5.99 per month or $55.99 for the year, for a savings of nearly 25 per cent.



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