Marda Loop Justice Film Festival

In mid-November, I got a library card at the Calgary Public Library! One way I feel like I’m really settling in somewhere is when I’m at the point I can get a library card! Because of COVID, I can’t go to any in-person events they have, or volunteer. However, they do have some online events I can participate in. The first event I participated in was the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival. They showed a movie every day, and at the end of the movie, they interviewed one of the people behind the creation of the movie. Here are the movies they showed for the week, as well as my personal commentary on it.

Warning: Contains spoilers!

Content Warning: War, enslavement, animal harm, rape, displaced people, AIDS.

Safe Haven:

This movie struck a lot of personal chords with me, especially because I’m new to Canada. They interviewed Vietnam and Iraq War veterans who sought refugee status in Canada to escape the draft (for Vietnam) or resist the horrors of war. The Vietnam War veterans had better luck with their refugee status than the Iraq War veterans.

During the Harper Administration, some Iraq War veterans were deported and had to spend months in prison under inhumane conditions. The movie talks honestly about the struggles Iraq War veterans faced with their immigration and the ensuing social activism to protect them. There are some things that I don’t feel I am in a position to comment on at this time.

I want to give a shout-out to the fact that social activists mentioned a lot of these veterans are LGBTQIA+. Additionally, the movie showed what the Vietnam veterans have been doing to contribute to Canadian society. A majority of them ran for office, and one of them is a judge who advocates for Indigenous communities. Of course, one of the veterans couldn’t be interviewed because he had severe PTSD, but you felt sympathetic about it.

The movie ended by saying that tens of thousands of US citizens moved to Canada in 2017 after Trump got elected. I know I moved later, but it still hit me hard that so many US citizens feel the same way I do. I think this movie is honest in talking about the past. Plus, it makes you think about what Canada can do to help US citizens who have recently emigrated and don’t feel they can repatriate.

I think the parts that resonated with me the most were how the veterans talked about adjusting to life in Canada. My own adjustment period has been up and down emotionally, particularly because I’m detoxing from a toxic country. Like those vets, I feel less American as time goes on. It gave me hope though that I will adjust. I’m determined to have a life like those Vietnam vets! I will become a productive citizen and give back to a country that I love that welcomed me when I needed it!

Servitude:

Servitude, or Servidão, is about human trafficking in Brazil. It was a thoughtful and thorough examination of Brazil’s history. Apparently, it was legal to keep those of African descent enslaved in Brazil decades after other countries had made it illegal. After enslaving people became illegal, corporations in Brazil found a way to keep millions of citizens working below poverty wages. Not only does this keep people in poverty, but those people are under orders to do tasks that destroy the rainforest, which creates its own social issues. Human trafficking clearly needs to be part of the discussions on how to stop deforesting the Amazonian rainforest. Now, I realize that stopping deforestation is much easier said than done.

Fortunately, there were organizations that resisted human trafficking and got millions of people out of enslaved labour. Unfortunately, when the far-right government was elected a few years ago, people were being trafficked again.

There was an interview with the director, and they asked him what he thought of the history of enslaved people in the USA compared to Brazil. I think he answered it as best he could, but he definitely got a couple of facts wrong. I also think it was an unfair question because I could tell from his answer that Brazilians know just as much about the US as Americans do about Brazil. I think more than anything, this movie showed the importance of understanding a country’s history before judging them for issues like destroying the rainforest. After all, several wise people have said those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.

Sockeye Salmon, Red Fish:

This movie showed sockeye salmon are being overfished and illegally poached. It explained how large corporations that fish the salmon and poachers affect the ecosystem of the Kamchatka peninsula and the livelihoods of local fishermen. The group that filmed the movie do a lot of education and outreach to the citizens of the Kamchatka peninsula, particularly the children. I wasn’t too familiar with the issue of disrupting salmon migrations and how it affects local ecosystems. The person they interviewed at the end was a biologist in British Columbia who studies the effects of disrupting salmon migrations and climate change. She was brutally honest about the fact that farmed fish is not a good solution to the problem of overfishing and declining salmon populations.

From Durban to Tomorrow:

The International AIDS Conference started in Durban, South Africa in 2000. Mass advocacy for universal access to AIDS treatment started then and continues to this day. The movie interviewed five people who are on the front line of advocating for universal access to healthcare in South Africa, Guinea, Spain, India and Hungary. The activists spoke honestly of the social stigma of AIDS and what social structures are affecting access to healthcare. I felt the saddest thing was in South Africa, women are highly likely to become infected with HIV by the time they are 16 because they are more likely to be raped by that age.

Additionally, US drug companies are withholding their newest treatments and finding ways to defund healthcare systems in other countries. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely surprised by that because I know what is happening with England’s healthcare system. The movie basically sent the message that citizens need to start advocating to keep their country’s healthcare systems providing equal access to quality healthcare.

Alice Street:

This movie was another one that I got a lot of feels about because my university was in Oakland. The movie talks about how the racial and ethnic diversity in Oakland has given the city its unique identity. The community worked with artists who wished to celebrate that identity on a massive mural. After the mural was painted, some Karen decided to protest it by having a temper tantrum at city officials and media. Additionally, gentrification started happening because of tech workers moving into Oakland. The mural was one of the driving forces behind the movement against gentrification.

When I was at university, the activism against gentrification was in full swing. I have seen the mural with my own eyes, and it’s one of those things that I like to stop and admire and consider the messages behind it. I had to leave my campus quite suddenly because my classes went online last March thanks to the pandemic. I do miss Oakland, and I am keeping up to date on what’s going on there with the anti-gentrification movement.

Never Going Back:

Never Going Back or Para No Volver is about this Honduran family with two girls who seek asylum in Mexico. It was an honest portrayal of culture shock and missing your home. I admit though, I had to stop watching it at one point. The family tries to enter the USA and they know they risk being separated. Anyone who has read my past posts knows how I feel about those deplorable Trump Administration policies that separate families, so I won’t repeat it.

Indebted to All Women:

Indebted to All Women or En Deuda con Todas is about the social effects of El Salvador’s laws restricting access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. Many women are interviewed in this movie who have done time for having babies who were stillborn. They were prosecuted for killing their babies when in reality, their bodies were just doing their job. These women almost died themselves giving birth but the law completely ignored that. Additionally, the lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare has disproportionately affected low-income girls and women. More girls get pregnant because they were raped and the rate at which they are raped is disgustingly high! This movie is another example of expanding equal access to women’s reproductive healthcare that must include ending rape culture and toxic masculinity. From Durban to Tomorrow had the same theme.

Overall, I think the festival did an excellent job of showing documentaries that covered a range of social issues. These movies made you think about how they were relevant to other countries, not just the ones portrayed. Since these documentaries are portraying stories of human suffering, I think they were tactful and respectful in their interviews, visuals and information. I have seen documentaries and TV shows that weren’t so respectful and I don’t think that’s an effective way to help your audience learn. Disturbing things can turn your audience off and documentaries can walk a fine line with portraying their subjects. I find documentaries that decide what are the points of the movie, portray their points clearly, succinctly and respectfully, and then move onto the next point are more effective in helping me learn about what’s going on. I have seen gory and disrespectful portrayals in documentaries and shows that just keep making the same point over and over. That makes me think, “Was that necessary?” Ultimately, I would find another way to learn about the subject.

Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised that the film festival had a clip of Land Acknowledgment before every movie. I have noticed Land Acknowledgment is more of a thing here in Canada. I didn’t even know what Land Acknowledgment was until 2018 when I transferred to university. My university did Land Acknowledgment during their ceremonies. Apart from that, I never noticed it at all during my time in California. I think the prevalence of Land Acknowledgement in an area or region is a sign of the prominence of social activism. I’m not saying things are perfect, but I am saying there is more of a respect for social activism when you see little things, such as practices like Land Acknowledgment.

Overall, I think the festival had a great selection of movies that covered a wide range of issues. I also noticed this festival is only a few years old. I found movies they have shown in previous years. If I can’t find them online, I will make a point of watching them once I can watch DVDs again.

If you are interested in seeing what movies were shown in the previous years, please click the following links:

MLJFF 2019

MLJFF 2018

MLJFF 2017

Rachel McAdams

I have fallen in love with Rachel McAdams during the pandemic! A while back, I was starting to find out more about Canadian actors/actresses, singers and other popular artists. One thing I have found is that getting in touch with popular culture in a country is great for getting to know the county better. Plus, it can be a good conversation starter with a native! When I moved to London, the internet was not as common as it is now, so I had no way of knowing what was popular. Kids at school definitely “took the mick” as the Brits say. Now, I don’t intend to get caught out. I love Michael Buble too, but that’s a whole other post!

Here’s what I have seen Rachel McAdams in so far, and my personal thoughts on each of them. Overall, I have really enjoyed them and want to see more!

Warning: Contains spoilers!

CW: Number 7 contains violence against women and kidnapping.

Number 8 contains murder and military violence.

Number 9 contains sexual violence.

  1. Slings and Arrows:

I started my Rachel McAdams kick with this tv series! She plays Kate McNab, a 19-year-old acting apprentice, who you first see playing Moth in The Dream. A stroke of fortune has her playing Ophelia in Hamlet. Apparently, the series was supposed to be about Kate’s career progression in the New Burgage Theatre Festival. After the first season, Rachel McAdams’ career took off and she had to be written out of the series. I was sad that she wasn’t staying through the whole series, but they made it work. I’ve seen the series three times now and it keeps getting better!

  1. Mean Girls:

Rachel did Regina George around the same time as Slings and Arrows! No wonder she had to be written out of the series! I have seen this movie several times, but I had never really paid attention to the actress who played Regina George. I knew she was 30 when she did the role, which was totally amazing to me! When I saw the interviews with the actors in the special features a long time ago, I could see that Rachel McAdams loved the role of Regina George! She listed all the wonderful things about the role and you could just feel her excitement! Nowadays, there are so many memes for Mean Girls all over the place and it’s a timeless classic! Here’s my favorite meme at the moment.

Source: Face

Anyone who knows me knows I have a love-hate relationship with the movie. I went to a historically women’s college and at the best of times, it was amazing. At the worst of times, it was a scene right out of that movie. Some of the students still hadn’t grown up and it was like, really people? I think the thing that gets to me the most is that everyone remembers that October 3 is Mean Girls Day, but nobody remembers the line, “You have GOT to stop calling each other sluts and whores! It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores!” I get it that sometimes slurs can be reclaimed, but in this instance, I don’t believe in reclaiming slurs that degrade women because misogynistic men still get away with using them. I think women need to accept that slurs against them cannot be reclaimed. Full gender parity has not happened yet, and I fully believe it’s not going to happen if women keep using slurs against each other, but that’s another tangent. Rant over. Next.

  1. The Notebook:

I confess I had never seen The Notebook before this summer. I know there was a lot of hype behind it and it has produced that classic kiss in the rain scene. Other than that, I never had any interest in the movie. It wasn’t until I heard Rachel McAdams was in it that I thought, “Well, that makes a difference!” I ended up really enjoying it. Of course, there were things I found creepy, especially since I’m a modern woman and thanks to #MeToo, sexism in Hollywood is becoming apparent. Not to mention, it’s becoming clearer how Hollywood has influenced young men by normalizing creepy behaviour. Other than that, I do think it’s a special kind of romance movie. I especially like them showing Allie and Noah’s relationship when they are older because you don’t see many elderly couples being romantic in movies. It should be more common because there is something special about it.

  1. About Time:

Another sweet, romantic Rachel McAdams movie. She plays Mary, who is an American living in England. The English setting provides a real depth to the movie and there are no stereotypes of either the English or American cultures. Of course, the best part is the time travel and how it works with different life situations in the movie. I think it teaches us a lot about making the most of your life.

  1. Game Night:  

I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but this title was exciting! I like playing games myself, plus I took Game Theory in my last semester in college and really loved it. I figure any plot involving games is going to be great! The overall plot is that a game night turns into an actual mystery when one of the guests is kidnapped. It’s a comedy thriller, so it’s not too scary. Rachel McAdams (Annie) and her co-star Jason Bateman (Max) carry the movie! They play a married couple who live games, not just play them. The only thing that annoyed me about the movie was using the stereotype that English people are smart and also the actress who was supposed to be English had the PHONIEST accent!!

  1. Midnight in Paris:  

Rachel McAdams (Inez) stars alongside Owen Wilson (Gil). They are an engaged couple travelling to Paris, and Gil is clearly in love with Parisian culture. I love seeing movies with writers in them now that I’m blogging. As a Third Culture Kid, I can totally relate to falling in love with a culture and throwing yourself into it. I found myself cheering on Gil and facepalming whenever Inez or her parents did anything that makes all Americans look like an embarrassment overseas. I knew Inez and Gil were going to break up before it even happened. I realized that the term Karen can apply to Americans travelling overseas and acting in a way that makes US expats cringe. Rachel McAdams’ played a Karen and did it beautifully!

  1. Red Eye:

This movie should be shown in every women’s self-defence class! Rachel McAdams plays Lisa Reisert, a hotel manager who works in Florida. She’s flying back to Miami from Texas after her grandmother dies and meets Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) at the airport. At first, things seem innocent, but there are warning bells going off. It turns out that Jackson is from a domestic terrorist organization that wants to murder an important figure at Homeland Security, Charles Keefe, who is staying at Lisa’s hotel. Jackson kidnaps Lisa while she’s on the plane and makes her put Charles Keefe in a vulnerable room or he will get his hitman to kill her father. Lisa does everything she possibly can to get people on the plane to notice the situation. When she doesn’t succeed, she attacks back. She uses anything at her disposal as a weapon and doesn’t stop until she knows she’s safe. At the same time, she saves her father, Charles Keefe and his family.

  1. State of Play:  

Rachel McAdams plays blogger Della Frye at the fictional Washington Globe. When a congressional aide dies in a mysterious death, Della pairs up with reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) to investigate the shady circumstances. Congressman Collins (Ben Affleck) who the aide worked for is investigating PointCorp, a private defense contractor that has questionable practices using ex-military personnel. Della is nearly killed by a former soldier who works for PointCorp, and Cal is injured while they are doing the investigation. Cal’s impartiality is questioned because Collins is his friend and his wife was Cal’s former lover. Eventually, Collins is arrested for his involvement in PointCorp while also investigating them right when the Globe releases their story.

  1. Spotlight:  

I saw this movie when it first came out, but haven’t seen it since. Still, it’s a memorable movie about how the Boston Globe exposed the priest pedophilia within the Catholic Church. Rachel McAdams plays Sascha Pfieffer, one of the reporters working on the stories. Sascha is a lapsed Catholic who is torn between the ethics of her duty to expose the truth and her relationship with her Catholic grandmother.

I’m glad that Rachel McAdams has been in movies that talk about the importance of good reporting, especially today when it’s becoming clear the effects of fake news. I’m looking forward to seeing more Rachel McAdams movies and shows!

Pain, Fire and Other Moving Upheavals

When you’re moving overseas, there are going to be massive changes to your plans. That is inevitable. Something that seemed a solid plan one day will disappear by the next. Even upsets in your life can seem like a bigger deal when you’re moving overseas.

These days, with COVID-19, plans are even more unpredictable. I check border updates every day to see if there is a way that my Mom and I can enter Canada. I have chronic pain issues and I got treatment by a Canadian healthcare provider that worked better than anything I have ever had in the US. One thing I am hoping for is if I can get into Canada to get treatment for my pain. I had to stop getting treatment because of COVID-19, so I have struggled with pain through the lockdown. I manage it on my own as best as I can, but I am going to need to resume treatment soon. I might have found a way to get in for healthcare reasons though. I might have to give up my IEC visa and find another way to get a work permit once I’m inside Canada.

Thanks to the pandemic, I hear companies aren’t hiring people from overseas. That means I have to establish residence first and then find a job. I do have financial worries because of this, and I am thinking about starting my own sort of enterprise and exploring my options for that. Whether I can do it in Canada before I get permanent residence is another matter. COVID-19 has made me think about what I want to do with my life and where I want to be financially.

Wildfire season has started in California, and it’s freakishly early compared to other years! I couldn’t believe it a few days ago, when I found out there are a lot of fires going on nearby. I haven’t needed to evacuate, but the fires are closer to where I live than they were in previous years. In 2018, the Camp Fire in November gave me ten days off school because the Air Quality Index was ridiculously high. Last year, classes were cancelled for a couple days in October because of a potential fire risk.

Sunrise and sunset are different when there is a fire. It’s almost eerie! I took some photos of a sunset when the smoke was really bad. It’s getting better in my area now, though. It’s scary to think wildfires are happening during a global pandemic too, especially since prisoners are recruited to fight fires, but the prisons have been hit with COVID-19. The whole system is fucked frankly!

Sunset on August 20, 2020 in SF Bay Area, East Bay
Sunset and Evening Star are one clear call for thee (Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson)

I thought when I left for Canada, I would only be taking the things I really need. I will be coming back later to move things up in a van. Now, I am thinking, “What can I not bear to lose if there is a fire?” I am going to take the things that are valuable to me that I have collected on my travels. Also, people have given me meaningful gifts from their countries and travels over the years. I collect things from foreign countries and I would be devastated if they got destroyed by a fire.

We have just started our sixth month on lockdown in the US. I feel scared to go out sometimes because cases keep going up even though indoor activities are not allowed. I have been good and doing my part, and it feels really unfair that I still have to stay home while other people are being reckless. Mental health is my number one priority at least. I have been doing a lot of self-care, like what I mention in my Self Care post. I think Michael Rappaport said it best in his PSA to wear your mask.

I admit, it has been nice finding some content that makes fun of anti-maskers, or even just content that creatively reminds you to do your part. Here are some of my favorites:

Signs You’re a “Karen”

Everybody Must Stay Home – Bob Dylan Coronavirus Parody

Sarah Cooper is a gem that has emerged during the pandemic. Someone once said she doesn’t just mimic Trump. She exposes him. I think she’s been doing people in the US a service, especially those who are good and staying home.

I also love the John Oliver shows. My favorite is still the first one he did on COVID-19 when he talked about this handwashing informational video from Vietnam that featured a dance routine that went viral all over the world. It’s funny to talk about something going viral during the time of a global pandemic.

Even so, I find it hard to enjoy these things sometimes and keep up my motivation to stay on lockdown. Whenever someone in my family comes home from a high-risk area, we have to do a 2319 from Monsters Inc. Now, that joke is getting old unfortunately.

My Mom and I say every day how we can’t wait to leave the US. Sometimes, we get news that makes me say, “Oh no! We’ll never get there!” I have to remember though that I have a false sense of timing about moving. It has always been that I would be in a country a few months after my Dad got a job overseas. We had the company help us with the paperwork and stuff, but now that I have to do it on my own, it takes longer. I have to remind myself that where there’s a will, there’s a way and just keep going until I reach my goal.

How have you all been handling the coronavirus situation? Hope you are all hanging in there and staying healthy! Watch this space for more updates!