Tuesday, 28 April 2015

3 For You at Hot Docs '15: Leaving Africa, Milk, Love Between the Covers

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is underway, and I hope that you have had a chance to see what a wide range of subjects fall under that documentary heading. If you haven't here are 3 films films for your consideration.

LEAVING AFRICA  is "a story about friendship and empowerment." Having met and interviewed subjects Riita and Kata, I can testify that these two women truly embody that statement. Their dedication to empowering girls and women through sexual education and gender equality lead to community elevation and change. When  jealous observers strive to halt, their progress, the two women find themselves in an unanticipated battle to reclaim their personal and professional reputations, and even more importantly, their program's funding. With so many negative stories coming out of Africa, it's so refreshing to see a film that documents real change and hope, and nowhere is that so aptly demonstrated that in the life of Daizy and her family. My interview with director, Iris Harma, reveals that she was drawn to Daizy from her active participation in the workshops, but she never dreamed that Daizy's development would unfold so naturally over the span of the year. What happens in Daizy's family (husband, 8 kids of her own, plus 5 adopted) is truly inspiring, especially as it pertains to the future of her daughters.

MILK was a surprise for me. Why? Because I didn't expect a documentary about breastfeeding and motherhood to reveal to me that there are countries in Africa that are ahead of so-called developed countries such as the United States and Canada in protecting mother and child. In Kenya, the nutritional and medicinal benefits of breast milk are protected by law. True, the sanctions that come with those laws need to enforced to a higher degree, but as a result of these laws, maternal health and child welfare are at the forefront of urban and rural Kenya. Why are billion dollar companies allowed to spend billions of dollars with cutesy, misleading advertising in areas where women do not have sanitized water to make formula? Where women who are capable of breastfeeding are given the impression that formula is best? Answer: the babies become malnourished, sickly from diarrhea, and in many cases they die. In western countries, why can't women breastfeed in public when billboards are "covered in tits"? Director, Noemi Weiss does an excellent job in contrasting mother/baby health in Brazil, the Philippines, France, Africa, the United States, and Canada and brings insight into the medicalization of the birthing process.

LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS is a documentary that I hope doesn't just preach to the converted. With the stigma that romance readers and writers endure, I wish that non-readers will take a chance and buy a ticket to this documentary. As a huge romance reader and fan of the genre, I have heard the dismissive tone and seen the "oh, you read those" looks in people's eyes. The romance genre outsells other fiction genres, but because it's written by, for, and about women, it doesn't get the respect it deserves. In talking to director, Laurie Kahn, I found that while she had read some romances in the past, it's her interest in making films about women's lives, that lead her to make the film. Kahn follows established writers such as Nora Roberts, Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins and others (including a new writer) documenting their working styles, interactions with fans, and mentoring of young writers, and their viewpoints on the stigma surrounding the genre. Besides being a billion dollar industry, this industry is also at the forefront of revealing the public evolution of women's sexuality: from Amish to BDSM and everything in between, you will find in on the shelves.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 23 - May 3, 2015
For all details about Hot Docs, visit: http://www.hotdocs.ca

Photos courtesy of hotdocs.ca

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