Image from the documentary K.O.R
  • Year : 2009
  • Director : Joanna Grudzinska

The spontaneous workers revolt and protests in 1976 in Communist Poland were violently repressed by the authorities. But almost immediately, a group of intellectuals and workers banded together to form K.O.R., the Workers Defense Committee. Active from 1976 to 1981, K.O.R. produced uncensored newspapers, provided aid to fired workers, and advocated for truly independent unions that could defend workers rights. This documentary accompanies two key K.O.R. activists and provides an insiders look at these critical years and the people who would set the stage for the end of Communist rule in Poland.

Historic Interest

After World War 2, the communist People’s Republic of Poland was formed, heavily influenced by the Soviet Union. In June 1976, Poland's Communist government of the People’s Republic of Poland announced dramatic increases in food prices as a response to the failing economy. The resulting June 1976 Protests set in motion a resurgence in activism and opposition, resulting in the Workers Defense Committee (K.O.R.). The documentary traces how the links forged between workers and intellectuals were consolidated in the shipyards of Gdansk in 1980, with the founding of the Polish Trade Union Solidarnosc under the leadership of Lech Walesa. In 1989, the transition to a democratic political system started, abandoning the former Communist regime.

Image from the documentary 00 - Closed District
  • Year : 2005
  • Director : Pierre Yves-Vandeweerd

Story


'I thought I was the only living person amongst the condemned ones, among people who were no longer masters of their own destiny.'

In 1996 filmmaker Pierre Yves-Vandeweerd travelled to the village of Mankien in South Sudan to film the civil war that was raging on in that area for decades. The town, situated on the symbolic border between Islamic Arab North and the Black Tribal South, always had a strategic position. The rich oil fields nearby the town played an important role in the Southern rebels fighting cause: autonomy and a fair share of the oil revenues. Sadly enough this fact left the people living in Mankien in a state of constant danger due to ground attacks and bombings from the North. Death had been a daily part of life for decades and it showed on the people as Yves-Vandeweerd found out. His expectations of what he was about to see were different from the reality. Instead of filming a battlefield with its war injuries he encountered people with the will to continue their existence in spite of the violence and famine they had been part of for many years.

The filmmaker intimately captured their daily lives, without understanding the words spoken. He was accepted by the community and allowed to film rituals and celebrations, only later finding out the shocking truth of what they were really about. Shortly after he returned to Belgium he found out that all the boys in the village were abducted to fight for the Southern Rebels, enrolled in the frontline to walk on the anti-personnel mines. To make matters worse later the news arrived that the whole village of Mankien was destroyed and that the majority of the people he filmed perished in this act of war. He thought that by filming the war he was going to defend a cause and denounce an injustice. The truth is however that in reality the only cause war truly serves is injustice. It left him feeling helpless and disillusioned, only finishing his film 8 years later.

Historic Interest

From the second half of the 20th century the Sudanese have been mangled by several violent conflicts . When Sudan gained its independence from the United Kingdom and Egypt in 1954 almost immediately a civil war broke out between the Islamic Arab North and the traditional, former nomadic, black tribes in the South. The Southern tribes formed a rebel movement called the SSLM (South Sudan Liberation Movement) and started their struggle for equal distribution of resources in the country and control of their own region. The first Civil War ended in 1972 with the Addis Ababa Agreement granting the South religious and cultural autonomy within the Sudanese nation.

But the peace in this already war-ridden country was short-lived. In 1983 Sudans President Nimeiry declared Sudan an Islamic State, terminating the autonomy of the South, which inevitably started the second Sudanese Civil war. Again a rebel movement was formed, now called the SPLM (Sudan People Liberation Movement) led by John Garang . Initially the war was started to gain autonomy, but control over natural resources continued to play a big role, especially because of the oilfields situated in the Southern part of the country. Because of the scarcity of soldiers and resources thousands of children were also recruited or forced to fight for the rebels cause. They would later become known as the the Lost Boys of the Sudan .

In the decades that followed the Sudanese people from the South suffered terribly from the armed conflicts and the famine that usually followed, leading to a death toll of over 2,5 million people. And to make matters worse the armed conflict gradually creeped within the SPLA ranks among different tribes. The leaders of the two biggest ethnic groups John Garang (Dinka tribe) and Riek Machar (Nuer tribe), started to have disagreements about their fighting cause (unification vs. separation) and the distribution of power. As a result several separatist rebel fractions were formed leading to armed conflicts between the fractions and even small-scale genocide among civilians like the Bor massacre in 1991.

2005 was a year of hope for the Sudanese when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed. In the agreement the South regained cultural and religious autonomy and a fair share of oil revenues. It further set a timetable for a referendum on South Sudan independence. When the referendum finally took place in January 2011 an overwhelming majority (99.83%) of the South Sudanese voted for independence. The independence from Sudan caused mass celebration by ecstatic South Sudanese all over the country and the diaspora abroad.

But the celebrations only lasted for a short time. In early 2012 tensions between North and South Sudan rose because of oil disputes and fighting broke out on the border, leading to a halt in oil production on both sides. In the meanwhile the new government, consisting of former SPLA leaders, had proved to be incapable to equally allocate the abundance of oil money to make necessary investments in agriculture, infrastructure, health and education. In spite of the intensive guidance by the United Nations to set up a proper government, lack of governing experience, corruption and power struggles within the former SPLA ranks started destabilizing the worlds youngest nation once again. Finally it all went wrong on december 15th 2013 when the internal struggle in the SPLA came to a violent conclusion, leading to the first South Sudanese Civil War. Vice-president Riek Machar was accused of a coup and fighting broke out between Dinka and Nuer soldiers of the presidential guard in the capital Juba. News of the armed conflict travelled fast and fuelled the old rivalry between the tribes causing fighting to break out all over the country, even within army battalions. Since that time a lot of atrocities against soldiers and civilians have been committed on both sides. And sadly enough the historic Bor massacre from 1991 was repeated in late December last year. In early 2014 both parties started negotiating, but the distrust, hatred and lust for power of both leaders are slowing the process down and keeping the war-torn country in the grip of uncertainty, violence and famine.

Image from the documentary Red Hair and black coffee
  • Year : 2012
  • Director : Milena Bochet

Story

This film offers an exclusive view on a hidden Romani village located deep down in a Slovakian valley, where the children run and play amongst old wooden and concrete shacks. Four mothers tell about their day-to-day life, personal struggles, old habits and spirits. One particular spirit is wandering around; the spirit of old red-haired lady Vozarania, the ancestor that still passes things on from mother to daughter.

Image from the documentary 00 - Tears of an Afghan Warlord
  • Year : 2011
  • Director : Pascale Bourgaux

Story

The documentary Tears of an Afghan Warlord gives a unique insight in the influence of the Taliban on the people of Afghanistan. The story is set in the village Dasht-e Qaleh, deep down in rural Afghanistan. For the film director Pascale Bourgaux visited the village multiple times over a 10-year period. She captures the ever-changing daily live of the main character Mamour Hasan, a former Afghan Warlord who fought the Taliban for many years. In the opening scenes in 2002 Hasan, who retired from fighting, seems to live a life of hope. He enjoys the admiration of the local people and lives in relative wealth. But in 2008 uncertainty arrives. Hasan has willingly given over his weapons to the central government under the pledge of peace, but a weak local police force and broken promises have led to a state of anxiety – and problems the Taliban is trying to fix. When Bourgaux returns in 2010 the situation is one of further decline, and as she tells the Frontline audience, is more complex than good versus evil: Hasan might have democratic concepts in him but of course he is running a feudal system, having all the money from taxes and distributing it to things he thinks are important. He is applying the power as a good man. Maybe the choice is not Taliban or democracy as we know it. But when the Taliban have the power it is a dictatorship. Bourgaux admits the story she tells in just one hour has taken her 10 years to understand, but the Frontline audience were eager to share her views. And some blame her for the continuing struggle in Dasht-e Qaleh.

Social interest

As the documentary shows the local Afghan people start to change their opinion about the Taliban as soon as the resources in the village are becoming poor. They are willing to accept the rule of the Taliban in exchange for more wealth. Is this way of thinking the same for every person? Are we willing to change our morals in time of need?

About the making

The risks taken by Bourgaux and her numerous crews have been equally great – returning to the village or Dasht-e Qaleh despite the encroaching Taliban, in order to portray the life of Mamour Hasan. Bourgaux dedicated the premiere to Frontline News Television cameraman James Miller, killed in 2003 while filming in Gaza, and France 2 journalist Gilles Jacquier, who died earlier this month covering the Syrian uprising.
Image from the documentary Speed in search of time
  • Year : 2013
  • Director : Florian Opitz

Story

"My experience with time by now is limited to the one feeling - I don't have enough." It's a paradox. Never before in history we have worked more efficiently. Never before we have saved time with more sophisticated technologies. Anyway, nearly all of us are feeling an increasing pressure of time. It seems that the same technology that has been invented to make our life better and easier, is now enslaving us. Florian Opitz tries to track down the reasons of our shortage of time and for the constant acceleration of our lives. In his search of lost time he not only questions his own hectic lifestile, but also visits several people, to find out how they deal with time. The pacemakers of the constant acceleration of society as well as dropouts. In Speed. In search of lost time step by step he reveals the disturbing picture of a civilisation, that has disposed of all brake systems and, run by autopilot, goes blindly for unlimited and eternal growth, no matter what the consequences are. But Opitz also tries to find the good life. In the niches of the global capitalism he discovers alternatives to the rat race.

Image from the documentary Lessons of the blood
  • Year : 2010
  • Director : James T. Hong

Story

Many warfare atrocities have been purposely tucked away, as is the case with the biological and chemical warfare used by Japan during World War 2, on Chinese citizens living in the Pingfang district. Unit 731 has tortured and killed thousands civilians, mainly by spreading deadly diseases and bacteria. This unnerving story shows how secretly, entire generations of the local population have been victimized.

About Unit 731

Unit 731 was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Japanese Army in the Pingfang district of Harbin. It was known as the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army. During World War 2, the Unit was responsible for lethal human experimentation. It is known that during World War 2, the Japanese deliberately infected civilians and prisoners. Thousands of people, both civilian and military died during the human experimentation in the war. This doesn’t include the victims who got ill or died in the aftermath of the outbreaks. The warfare consisted of the spread of cholera, plague infested fleas and glanders. Mainly known as a bacteria lethal for horses and mules, the bacteria has proven to be crippling and even deadly for human beings as well. In this film, victims refer to it as the rotten leg syndrome.

Image from the documentary The World of Luigi Ghirri
  • Year : 1999
  • Director : Gianni Celati

Story

This documentary explores the work of the famous photographer Luigi Ghirri. Several people reflect on the aesthetics of Ghirris style that made him so famous: The positioning of regular people, landscapes, buildings or objects in his photos transform the picture into something that engages the viewer to feel instead of seeing.

Image from the documentary Raising Resistance
  • Year : 2012
  • Director : Bettina Borgveld & David Bernet

Story

This beautiful shot documentary explores the difficult issue of contemporary soy production, where traditional agriculture has to give way to modern production techniques. In Raising Resistance we see the struggle of poor farmers against the expanding production of Genetically modified soy in South America. However, the documentary also shows the viewpoint of the big farmers, mostly coming from a poor background themselves, who try to maximize the output of their crops by using genetically modified soyplants.

Biotechnology, mechanisation, and herbicides have radically changed the lives of small farmers in Latin America. The soy used by the big farmers has been genetically modified to withstand the strongest herbicides. When these soyfields are sprayed with the special formulated herbicide Roundup all the plants, except the modified soy, will die. Needless to say the regular crops of farmers on adjacent farmland, as well as their own health suffers because of the Roundup herbicide.

For these farmers, called the campesinos, who actively oppose this method of farming this means displacement from their land, loss of basic food supplies, and a veritable fight for survival. As corporate farms seize farmland and rapidly expand production of genetically modified soy, farmers like Geronimo Arevelos find themselves in a life and death struggle. Because of their desperation the campesinos from several villages in the region are organised in an activist group. This group directly confronts the people who are working for the big farmers often leading to clashes, even violence.

Raising Resistance illustrates the mechanisms of a global economy that relies on Monocropping and corporate ownership of land. In telling the story of Paraguay, Raising Resistance poses the larger question of whether the global community wants to go on living with a system that allows one crop to prosper at the expense of all others.

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