these films tackled the major social issues of 2018
Using creativity to fight back against crushing global politics.
Still from Tam Tam -- Outside The Lines
Across the globe, it has been an unpredictable and fragmented year in the fight for human rights. In Brazil, the world looked on as a president who is notoriously anti-black, anti-LGBT and anti women’s rights was elected as an antidote to rising crime rates and corruption. Trump’s policies on abortion, as well as rhetoric on gun ownership, sent shockwaves around the globe and influenced a crackdown on similar issues elsewhere -- such as in Brazil, where newly elected president Jair Bolsonaro cites Trump as an inspiration. To legitimise a global push towards populism, politicians have relied on disinformation, fake news and negative stereotypes.
At its core, our creativity should exist as an antidote this; it should should allow us to question and challenge the often singular narrative fed to us. This caution was given to us by celebrated writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who said: “Show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again and that is what they become.” That statement, when understood amid the regurgitated charges of ‘Islam is a religion that harms women’ or ‘abortion is used as a contraception and must be regulated’, takes on a new life. In fact, those words become a responsibility -- a responsibility to platform, support and make space for those who speak of different experiences and ones who whisper against the status quo. In this spirit, I have gathered together several short films that challenge the divisive narratives that have wormed their ways into policy.
Reproductive rights under attack — Shove
It’s been a painful year for reproductive rights. In the United States, the Trump administration worked hard to roll back the Obama-era birth control mandate. For example, in October it became policy that health insurers did not have to provide coverage for birth control if it conflicted with ‘their religious or moral beliefs’. Naturally, hard to access contraceptives often leads to a rise in abortions, which the administration is also seeking to limit. And because American politics does not exist in a vacuum, the ‘moral compass’ of these individuals reverberates around the world. Through the reinstatement of the ‘Global Gag Rule’ -- officially named the Mexico City Policy -- US funded health initiatives in other countries are no longer allowed to offer abortion or even talk about the procedure.
In Argentina, this conservative stance can also be felt -- a bill to legalise abortion there was squashed in August. Reflecting on her own experiences in regards to abortion in Argentina, and those of the women she met over her 8 years living there, multidisciplinary creative and performer Lauren Pringle decided to use her own experiences to make the short film SHOVE. Through a fusion of grace and pain, the film exposes the dangers of banning abortion, and the deadly reality that a lack of safe choices enables. As Pringle herself discovered, there is a “tangled web of backstreet clinics and mysterious phone numbers” -- showing that legality does not prevent those who need it when seeking abortion. Instead, it drives the procedure underground forcing women into situations of grave danger. She says of the film, “I feel it is so important to react and resist to the current times through our work as artists, if not, what are we actually doing? We shouldn't just be making fiction for fictions sake or something pretty and aesthetic, art needs to say something."
Global attacks on Islam — 99 Names of God
Around the world, followers of Islam are being attacked. In the United States, a worldwide narrative that inextricably links extremism and Islam has allowed for Trump’s Muslim ban, while, unknown to many, China has been accused of rounding up many Muslim citizens to attend internment camps that combat ‘terrorism and religious extremism’. Stories that show the beauty and femininity of this religion are rarely given space or airtime. Yet, still, it is this deep misconception that is allowing and perpetuating crimes against those who practice the religion. This is when the vital work of photographer and filmmaker Yumna Al-Arashi comes in. In her short film 99 Names of God we are presented with the gentle femininity and the magic of Islam. She says of the film, “My inspiration for the 99 Names of God was truthfully rooted in the misrepresentation of Islam. Especially of women’s roles in the religion. I’ve so often observed women’s powerful roles in the social and historical fabric of the religion, and wished that I could find a way of effectively sharing the beauty.
"The opportunity to make this film presented itself and my approach was rooted in beauty that could be digested without words; read by audiences worldwide. I wanted to give muslims; especially Muslim women, something to feel proud of. Something in western media that was for them, spoke to them, past the noise we grew up hearing about ourselves."
Knife crime — Velvet
Heartbreakingly, 2018 was the year that knife crime reached a seven year high in London. However, there is little that allows us to see beyond the gang-related horror of the headlines that time and time again prey upon black masculinity and cite moral decline, music and youth culture as a cause. Filmmaker Iggy Ldn, who is well regarded for his work that dismantles stereotypes surrounding blackness and masculinity, was motivated by the death of model Harry Uzoka earlier this year. His intention was “to shed light on losing a loved one from a mother's perspective. I wanted to show the joy that we often see in great personalities such as Harry and the way in which they should be remembered. The film is about a mother, who although she can't control the happenings of the outside world, works desperately to keep her household in order, and that means keeping her son away from trouble.” Unlike the stories popularised in the papers, the film captures the love and pain that comes with loss of young lives.
LGBT rights — Nail Transphobia
While the UK consultation on the Gender Recognition Act became a hotbed for anti-trans sentiment, in the US Trump continued his attempts erase trans people from existence, this year has been a wakeup call. However, as so many visual pieces about the LGBT, and especially trans community, are created without the meaningful collaboration of those within it and so fall back on stereotypes, the finger popping campaign starring Nail Transphobia activist Charlie Craggs is a breath of fresh air. As bold and creative as the founder, the playful short video directed by Nova Dando leads you to a simple way to begin showing support for trans people. To join forces with Craggs, raise your finger to transphobia! While Charlie’s Nail Transphobia campaign has been around for a while, these new visuals couldn’t be more timely.
Citizenship — Tam Tam -- Outside The Lines
Shot on film, Tam Tam -- Outside The Lines, by British director Greg Hackett, is a beautiful, haunting portrayal of basketball team that captures the madness of immigrant citizenship rules in Italy. Told through youthful eyes, the idea of belonging and nationality breaks down before us as we feel the humiliation and pain of kids not being ‘Italian enough’ to play basketball. The surreal background of abandoned towns visually signifies a lack of humanity and what we should all value as a society. However, Tam Tam’s small victories leaves the viewer with a feeling that all is not lost if we care to persist.
Border control — Calling Home
The violence of borders was thrown into the public eye this year. Despite immigration fences and the brutality that comes with rules of access to citizenship, most of society is often hidden from the harsh reality of it. After a year in which haunting images of children crying emerged from American / Mexican border as they were separated from their parents, and British activists were held on terrorism charges for protesting barely legal deportation orders, it seems fitting to re-share Calling Home. The aim behind this film was to amplify the experiences and bravery of the women hidden in British Immigration and Removal Centres. While the short is made from recordings done in the UK, similar facilities are run by the same private contractor, Serco, throughout the world. Through discussions about jewellery and music, the sole motivation behind the piece is remind people of the human cost of borders control and the strength of those who resist them.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.