3 docs about Asia at the 11th DOXA festival in Vancouver

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From exploits of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei to the women of Afghanistan, the 11th DOXA festival offers varieties of views on the Asian world.

Alison Klayman’s “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”, is one of the highlights of this year’s DOXA documentary film festival, which opens Friday and runs to May 13. The film is slated for the closing night gala at 7 p.m. May 12 at the Granville Seven.

This year’s DOXA, the 11th, is the biggest, with 99 films, from 24 countries. Among these films, X are speaking about Asia.

. The Boxing Girls of Kabul [Canada]
Ariel J. Nasr, Canada, 2011, 52 mins

“As the countdown to the Summer Olympic Games begins in earnest, Ariel Nasr’s film takes on an especial poignancy. The girls here are fighting not just for the greater glory of their country, but to change the very perception of women in Afghanistan. Not long ago, the stadium where the girls run laps and spar was the site of women being stoned to death. As Afghanistan struggles out the dark days of the Taliban, the struggle to change the minds of the Afghan people must be fought one family at a time. –DW (Film page on Doxa)

Ariel Nasr is an Afghan Canadian filmmaker based in Afghanistan. Fascinated by the pursuit of untold stories, he directed Good Morning Kandahar and The Boxing Girls of Kabul for the National Film Board of Canada. Ariel also designs video installations and writes for radio, and is currently creating an NFB interactive project about storytellers in Kabul. He recently produced the narrative film Buzkashi Boys, shot on location in Kabul.

. Story of Burqa: Case of a Confused Afghan [Canada]
Brishkay Ahmed, Canada, 2012, 70 mins

“When director Brishkay Ahmed first undertakes a social experiment in the streets of Vancouver, little does she know that she is about to embark on a journey to uncover the strange history of the most controversial piece of clothing—the burqa. From its emergence in the harems of Indian kings, to the influence of British foreign policy, to the current ban in Sarkozy’s France, the burqa has been a flash point for economic, political and cultural struggle. In the markets of Kabul, male buyers and sellers haggle over price and colour, while the women who bear the brunt of burqa are largely invisible. Even ten years after the savage reign of the Taliban was lifted, women are still covered in public places. But the Taliban weren’t the only ones to use the burqa for their own purposes. From Chinese importers, to Iranian politicians, to spy agents and suicide bombers, ”All have benefited from burqa,” says Brishkay. “The women under have always lost.” The reality of wearing a burqa becomes explicitly apparent when the director dons a pale blue version and attempts to navigate the complexities of stairs and city streets. With humour, tenacity and the fierce intelligence, Story of Burqa picks apart the tangled threads of Afghanistan’s complex and complicated history to reveal the barefaced facts. Control over the bodies of women is only the beginning. What is really at stake is power over Afghanistan itself. –DW (Film page on Doxa)

DOXA is proud to celebrate the achievements of Canadian women in documentary with the world premiere of Brishkay Ahmed’s new film that embodies the best spirit of Canadian filmmakers.

Trailer on YouTube

Film review in Vancouver Weekly


Brishkay Ahmed creates programming for Canada and Afghanistan. She recently finished writing and directing a 20-episode drama series for Afghan television as well as an 18-part radio drama series for the nation. In development is another television project for Afghan media, and a documentary exploring women’s role in Islam. Shining a light on social issues impacting women and children, and sharing these stories with audiences around the world is her passion. Her inspiration is her 9-year-old twin girls.

. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry [USA]

Alison Klayman, USA, 2011, 91 mins

“Can art change the world? The work of Chinese artist, dissident, and provocateur extraordinaire Ai Weiwei provides a resounding yes to that question. From his infamous one-fingered salute to the Motherland to the 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds that graced the Tate Modern Turbine Hall in London, Ai’s raging, subversive, gleeful work has been at the vanguard of a new wave of Chinese contemporary art. It was his role as an activist, however, that vaulted him into something of a global figurehead for the pro-democracy movement in China.

On May 12th, 2008, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake in Sichuan Province killed more than 86,633 people, including over 5,000 schoolchildren who were buried alive when their schools collapsed. Whether or not shoddy construction was to blame, the government’s lack of accountability fueled a grassroots campaign for answers. Parents who lost their only children refused to be silenced and fought a ferocious battle with the government. After visiting Sichuan, Ai set out to document every child killed in the earthquake. Using his Twitter account, he issued a call for people to record themselves speaking the name of one of the children who died. This was more than a work of art; it was a fight to the death against censorship and corruption, and an unrelenting call for freedom.
But dissent on this scale is not without consequence in China. When Ai’s studio was bulldozed and the artist placed under arrest, the price of speaking out was literally tallied in the form of a tax bill of 2.4 million dollars levied against the artist. It is Ai’s role as a symbol for freedom in China that is perhaps his masterwork.
Director Alison Klayman’s film is a stunning achievement and DOXA is very proud to offer this remarkable film on the fourth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake. –DW (Film page on Doxa)

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is Alison Klayman’s debut feature documentary, which she directed, produced, filmed and co-edited. She is a 2011 Sundance Documentary Fellow and one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film”. She has been a guest on The Colbert Report, as well as CNN and NPR. Klayman lived in China from 2006 to 2010, working as a freelance journalist. She speaks Mandarin and Hebrew, and graduated from Brown University in 2006.

Trailer on YouTube

DOXA Documentary Film Festival 2012

May 4th – 13th, 2012

DOXA is presented by The Documentary Media society, a Vancouver-based non-profit, charitable society.


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