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Art Threat

political art & cultural policy

Last Build Date: Tue, 02 May 2017 03:15:23 +0000


How Do you Spell Colonialism? A Review of Hot Docs’s 2017 Opening Film Bee Nation

Mon, 01 May 2017 18:13:55 +0000

The article below originally appeared at POV Magazine, which is providing comprehensive coverage of the Hot Docs festival, including an alternative take on the film reviewed below (by Judy Wolfe). The notion that an Indigenous spelling bee competition could serve as the cohesive force to unite disparate First Nations children across Canada under one nation, […]

Curating the North: Documentary Screening Ethics and Inuit Representation in (Festival) Cinema

Thu, 17 Dec 2015 16:30:52 +0000

Documentary festivals are certainly not immune to scandal and controversy, and this year’s RIDM, which took place in Montreal in November 2015, was no exception. Following on the heels of the festival’s public screenings of Dominic Gagnon’s film Of the North, Inuit artists like Tanya Tagaq and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril took to social media to express […]

Venice Biennale: Artists Fiddled While Venice Drowned

Sat, 12 Dec 2015 23:51:43 +0000

It’s massive: 130 artists, over 50 national pavilions and more than 40 collateral events across the city. It’s also largely irrelevant to the fate of Venice in a world of irresistible climate change. Venice is in peril, its future grim; sea levels are rising, flood barriers are inadequate, giant cruise ships and billionaire super yachts […]

Our RIDM suggestions: urban development, rural Jesus, protest music, and more

Sun, 15 Nov 2015 16:28:19 +0000

RIDM always has way more films that look fantastic than any one person with other commitments can reasonably see in the space of ten days, which is a great problem to have. These are a few suggestions of things we’ve seen and loved. The Chinese Mayor The Chinese Mayor (2015, Hao Zhou) is a fairly […]

Artist says Nope to Stephen Harper (again)

Wed, 02 Sep 2015 21:55:24 +0000

Four years ago, Bob Preston found himself in the same position as millions of Canadians: he desperately wanted to see prime minsiter Stephen Harper turfed from office. Influenced by Shepard Fairey’s iconic Hope poster, the Victoria, BC artist set to work creating an inspiring work of his own for the 2011 Canadian federal election campaign. […]

Peter Kennard: A very unofficial war artist

Tue, 25 Aug 2015 16:57:42 +0000

The Exhibiton — Peter Kennard: A Very Unofficial War Artist, Imperial War Museum, London The Film — Zygosis: John Heartfield and the Political Image by Gavin Hodge & Tim Morrison (1991) The images in this archival exhibition, Peter Kennard: A Very Unofficial War Artist, represent a radical perspective on the history of the last 70 […]

Montreal Fringe: Three for the road

Sun, 21 Jun 2015 20:34:56 +0000

Cootie Catcher, written and performed by Lucas Brooks, focuses on Brooks’ close encounters of the transmissible kind. Using a cootie catcher, better known to some as a fortune teller, Brooks regales the audience with tales of all the times he thought he had been exposed to one STD or another, while simultaneously exploring his sexual […]

Montreal Fringe: Laureen: Queen of the Tundra

Sun, 21 Jun 2015 01:32:06 +0000

As an American expat unfamiliar with the pop-cultural aspect of Canadian politics, a lot of the jokes in Laureen: Queen of the Tundra went over my head. However, it is to the performers’ credit that this did not distract from their commentary about the fluidity of gender and culture, against the rigidity of modern politics. […]

Montreal Fringe: Non-conformist jugglers, Mrs. Pirandello, and intense performance art

Thu, 18 Jun 2015 16:23:16 +0000

The New Conformity, from Vancouver circus troupe Cause & Effect, is on its most immediate level a direct commentary on contemporary corporate culture. The performers, clad in identical grey suits, use juggling and physical comedy to tell the story of one man’s rebellion against imposed monotony, which begins with the revelation that he is wearing […]

Montreal Fringe: Dystopia, misogyny, and carrés rouges

Mon, 15 Jun 2015 20:59:15 +0000

2056: A Dystopian Black Comedy takes place in a near-future Canada, controlled by an authoritarian regime known as the Helpers who have, in the wake of an atheist Reckoning, abolished all religion and languages other than English. Like other dystopias, it is based on controlled fear. Written by Keir Cutler and directed by Jon Lachlan […]

Montreal Fringe: The No Bull$#!% History of Canada and Bar Kapra the Squirrel Hunter: No-bullshit reviews

Sat, 13 Jun 2015 19:51:03 +0000

A tight, well-paced show, The No Bull$#!% History of Canada rips through 600+ years of history in what feels like ten minutes. Given the vast timespan explored in what is actually just under an hour, it’s impossible to expect that anything will be covered in any kind of depth, so writer/performer Kyle Allatt focuses on […]

The outlaw love and godless gospel of roots rocker Rodney DeCroo

Tue, 26 May 2015 02:08:40 +0000

Speaking of God, DeCroo’s work is ill-suited by labels such as “Alternative,” “Country,” or “Folk”: this is godless Gospel music, and I’ve never heard anything else like it.

Condé and Beveridge depict two visions of our future

Wed, 20 May 2015 18:13:18 +0000

The following text was written to accompany the show “Scene Otherwise: recent work by Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge,” which ran from April 17 to May 12 at the Khyber Centre for the Arts, curated by the Anna Leonowens Gallery as part of the Halifax Mayworks Festival. We live in an age of the foreclosure […]

From Exposé to Opacity: With The Migrant Image, T.J Demos Rethinks Documentary Aesthetics

Fri, 08 May 2015 18:54:51 +0000

Though often situated at the centre of grandiose political and activist projects, tasked time and again with capturing visible evidence of exploitation, violence, deprivation, and inequality, documentary, as both a genre and a practice, rests on a fundamental paradox: that of being perpetually too early and too late. If, as T.J. Demos writes near the […]

Hot Docs 22: CanCon and BrandCon

Tue, 28 Apr 2015 21:18:09 +0000

North America’s largest and most sweeping doc-deluge, the Canadian International Hot Docs Festival, is once again in full swing, and the moment wouldn’t be complete, for me at least, without some form of commentary that assesses this institutional giant as it marks another year. In that spirit and as with past “taking stock” previews (2014 […]

Petition to Save Film Heritage in Former Yugoslavia

Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:39:56 +0000

An appeal from the international community of film scholars, cinephiles and archivists: Dear Colleagues, Avala Film, the former Yugoslavia’s oldest film studio – which was at the heart of Mila Turajlic’s 2010 internationally acclaimed documentary CINEMA KOMUNISTO –  is to be sold by the Serbian government for the value of the terrain that the “film […]

A Changing Chinatown

Tue, 14 Apr 2015 17:59:17 +0000

Julia Kwan’s NFB-produced Everything Will Be (Canada, 2014) examines the gentrification of Vancouver’s Chinatown as an uneasy balance of preservation, assimilation, and creative re-purposing. A flurry of condo development encroaches on the neighbourhood’s familiar faces, such as the witty nonagenarian newsvendor and the members of the senior’s singing club. Meanwhile, younger community members inherit their […]

Filmmakers pull out of Istanbul festival in government censorship protest

Tue, 14 Apr 2015 06:47:59 +0000

Nearly two dozen filmmakers have yanked their films from the 34th Istanbul Film Festival in response to the last-minute cancellation of documentary screening about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The growing censorship protest, which now involves a majority of the filmmakers participating in the event, has led organizers to cancel competitions and the closing ceremony. […]

Performing Aloha in Queer Times

Tue, 07 Apr 2015 15:48:16 +0000

In 2001, filmmakers Kathryn Xian and Brent Anbe broke new ground with their documentary Ke Kulana He Mahu: Remembering a Sense of Place. The film, which documents the lives, struggles, and aspirations of several queer and trans Kanaka Maoli (Indigenous Hawaiians), also made an important and, at the time, novel effort to explore how the […]

Art and photography tackle the conscience and chronology of war

Sun, 29 Mar 2015 05:56:31 +0000

A review of: Conflict – Time – Photography @ Tate Modern, London Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War @ Pallant Gallery, Chichester Brute @ arthouse1, London We have just returned from Tate Modern and the exhibition Conflict-Time-Photography. On the cover of the exhibition catalogue is the photo of a statue. It’s on […]

Screening Truth to Power: A Reader on Documentary Activism

Sat, 07 Mar 2015 22:32:31 +0000

Screening Truth to Power: A Reader on Documentary Activism is a collection of essays and interviews related to the films and filmmakers of Cinema Politica (CP), and as such provides an excellent source of Canadian documentary work that pursues effecting positive social change. This non-profit doc-screening organization, which started in Montreal’s Concordia University, has established […]

Maidan: one of the most honest depictions of popular protest ever filmed

Thu, 01 Jan 2015 04:59:17 +0000

Sergei Loznitsa’s latest film, Maidan, falls firmly in the tradition of documentaries that use the real to question the possibilities of cinema. Those expecting a more activist documentary like Jehane Noujaim’s The Square might come away dissatisfied with Maidan, but this shouldn’t stop filmgoers from experiencing what is ultimately one of the most honest depictions of popular protest […]

Activist pasts, austere presents, queered futures: An interview with Emily Davidson

Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:20:18 +0000

“Imagine a new relationship to every aspect of everything.” “Capitalism has fallen; Art must be redefined.” “You get to pick your gender when you come of age, but feel free to change your mind.” “Living together is still hard; Art makes it better.” These missives from the Inner City Artists’ Commune arrive to us from […]

Ethnography 101: La cour de Babel and La marche à suivre

Sat, 22 Nov 2014 23:24:17 +0000

La cour de Babel (2013, Julie Bertuccelli) and La marche à suivre (2014, Jean-François Caissy), both screened at this year’s RIDM, have a great deal in common. Both observational documentaries dealing with high school students facing challenges which keep them on the fringes of their schools’ mainstreams, the two films are nearly identical on a […]

What does the word Polytechnique mean to you?

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 20:02:33 +0000

The Anorak, written and performed by Adam Kelly Morton, goes beyond the pat answers and media sensationalism around the Polytechnique massacre and examines what made Marc Lépine a killer. Exceptionally well-researched, Morton’s text looks critically at the myriad factors that anti-feminists have attempted to derail the public discourse with, from an abusive childhood right through […]

The Look of Silence: breathtaking in every sense

Mon, 17 Nov 2014 18:00:15 +0000

The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer’s stunning new film, is a sublime work that should more than satisfy the critics of its companion piece, The Act of Killing. Aiming to expose the ongoing impunity with which the perpetrators of Indonesia’s 1965 genocide are treated, the biggest objections to The Act of Killing were that the […]

Just For Laughs: Gregg Proops & Paul F. Tompkins

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 21:33:38 +0000

The Just For Laughs Festival is taking place in Montreal, and Art Threat’s Kristi Kouchakji is there to review the politically-tinged humour for us. Greg Proops: “These are the bad old days.” The word on the street is that this Whose Line Is It Anyway? veteran has a remarkably intelligent and perceptive take on Quebec […]

Just For Laughs: Jerrod Carmichael, Nikki Glaser & Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 18:54:10 +0000

The Just For Laughs Festival is taking place in Montreal, and Art Threat’s Kristi Kouchakji is there to review the politically-tinged humour for us. Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It: A One-lady Rape About Comedy Starring her Pussy and Little Else With a title like “Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It” and a no-pants-performance gimmick, it is […]

Just For Laughs: David O’Doherty & What Would Beyoncé Do?

Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:09:33 +0000

The Just For Laughs Festival is taking place in Montreal, and Art Threat’s Kristi Kouchakji is there to review the politically-tinged humour for us. Luisa Omielan’s What Would Beyoncé Do? Despite some terrible promotional copy, Luisa Omielan’s What Would Beyoncé Do? seemed promising. A single 30-something woman moving back in with her mother holds a […]

Daniel Higgs at Café Oto: A refuge of cultural integrity

Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:33:18 +0000

In the mosh pit of global corporate excess that claims so much of London (UK) circa 2014, Café Oto is an oasis of cultural intelligence and inspiration. I popped in last night to check out Daniel Higgs and Michael Zerang, and I wasn’t disappointed. Daniel Higgs (formerly of Lungfish) is a compelling performer: part troubadour, […]

Montreal Fringe: Hue Man & The Dysmorphia Diet

Fri, 20 Jun 2014 16:01:18 +0000

Hue Man: He Volution An exploration of socially constructed male gender roles through puppetry and video art, Hue Man: He Volution is an interesting concept that doesn’t quite work. The pre-show here includes a PowerPoint presentation about sexist terms that need to be retired, all of which pertain to concepts of masculinity. This is the […]

Montreal Fringe: God as Drag Queen, Big Gay Weddings, and Peeing on Stage for Poverty

Fri, 20 Jun 2014 15:45:46 +0000

God Is A Scottish Drag Queen II Where this God is concerned, nothing is sacred. Essentially an hour of stand-up performed by Mike Delamont in character as a Scottish incarnation of God in a floral power suit with a list of religion-related talking points, God Is A Scottish Drag Queen II changes focus from one […]

Montreal Fringe: Chlamydia dell’Arte: A Sex-Ed Burlesque

Thu, 19 Jun 2014 18:52:09 +0000

“Butt sex should never be a surprise.” So begins the very catchy tune that opens Chlamydia dell’Arte: A Sex-Ed Burlesque. Alternating skits and burlesque numbers with vox pop video segements, this show aims to “educate through laughter”, and to some degree it succeeds. The safe sex aspects of the show are largely limited to condom […]

Montreal Fringe: Ginger Slurs & Slut Shaming

Thu, 19 Jun 2014 18:37:07 +0000

Project Gingervitis Project Gingervitis is a smart, funny take on discrimination, eugenics, geopolitics, and media manipulation. A one-man show written and brilliantly performed by Jordan Lloyd Watkins and set in a dystopian future, the show tells the story of a lone redhead born years after redheads were thought to have been eradicated. A mix of […]

Montreal Fringe: Kitt & Jane guide us through the ecological apocalypse

Tue, 17 Jun 2014 06:05:29 +0000

Kitt & Jane: an interactive survival guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future is environmental activist theatre disguised as charming comedy and shadow play. Created by the team behind the award-winning Little Orange Man, Kitt & Jane sees Kitt, still quietly mourning her grandfather’s death, teamed up with Jane (real name: Lucas) to inaugurate their school’s new […]

Montreal Fringe: Our Creation, Existence, & Destruction in 55 Minutes

Tue, 17 Jun 2014 05:44:29 +0000

Our Creation, Existence, & Destruction in 55 Minutes is a one-man show from recent John Abbott Theatre grad Ian Geldart. Supported by stage manager Natasha Gabriella Trepanier in minor speaking roles and the work of animator Dylan Alberts, Geldart sets out to explore the big picture laid out in the show’s title. The idea isn’t […]

My Playwright Sister: a play about a play about a transgender sibling

Sat, 14 Jun 2014 22:54:31 +0000

My Playwright Sister, written and performed by James Diamond and Johanna Nutter, is a sequel of sorts to Nutter’s earlier work, My Pregnant Brother. My Pregnant Brother sets Nutter’s struggle to assert herself against her instinct to help her pregnant, transgendered brother. While this autobiographical piece is exquisitely well-performed, it has also been the target […]

Engaging and Enraging: A Review of The Secret Trial 5

Sun, 25 May 2014 16:31:36 +0000

The Secret Trial 5, director Amar Wala’s first feature, is an engaging and enraging look at five men labelled security risks by the Canadian government and detained without trial for a combined total of 30 years in prison, and another 20 years (and counting) under strict house arrest. Shot over four years, the film follows […]

An open letter to George W. Bush, the artist

Mon, 12 May 2014 23:05:33 +0000

Dear Mr. Bush, I was heartened to learn of your recent exhibition of paintings at your own Presidential Library in Dallas. Some may have considered this a crude display of the vanity of power, but I happen to think such crudeness has its own aesthetic merit and honesty. It is crucial that world leaders such […]

Hugs With Arms will put affordable art on your walls

Fri, 09 May 2014 23:07:11 +0000

After seven years of putting political art on your computer screen, I’m now hoping to put some art on your walls. We started Art Threat in 2007 because we felt that artists creating socially-engaged work weren’t getting the attention they deserved. After 1200+ posts over the years (and many more to come), I’d like to […]

The Condemned exposes the dark lives of convicted murderers

Mon, 05 May 2014 18:28:11 +0000

On the outside, The Condemned is what you would expect of a documentary about a prison: bad food, unsympathetic guards, tearful family reunions, letters from Lonely Hearts, and a lot of tattoos. But Federal Penal Colony 56, buried deep in the wilderness of Russia, contains so much more. A prison exclusively for murderers with 260 […]

Asking the right questions: A review of Private Violence

Sun, 04 May 2014 18:18:25 +0000

Private Violence, a heart-wrenching documentary about domestic abuse, follows one advocate and survivor’s journey to improve upon the resources and support systems for abused women, as well as hold accountable the criminal justice system in the United States that allows abusers to go free. Director Cynthia Hill explores intimate, emotional stories of women and their […]

A soulful assemblage: A review of Come Worry with Us!

Fri, 02 May 2014 18:46:17 +0000

Come Worry With Us! is a film by Helene Klodawsky that follows Montreal-based band, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra on a North American tour.  A collage-like documentary, the film highlights Jessica Moss and Efrim Menuck, bandmates, partners and parents to toddler-aged Ezra, who is traveling with the musicians. An assemblage of visual stylings (hand-held […]

Sheen and gloss, personal and political: A Review of We are the Giant

Wed, 30 Apr 2014 19:24:20 +0000

We Are the Giant, a powerful portrait of five human rights activists in Syria, Libya, and Bahrain, personalizes the multiple, simultaneous, and in many ways ongoing struggles often monolithically referred to as the Arab Spring. Through first-person interviews as well as archival, news, and cell phone footage, director Greg Barker goes beyond Western media’s surface […]

A visceral, jarring work: A review of Children 404

Wed, 30 Apr 2014 15:05:37 +0000

“Children like me simply don’t exist for them.” With these ominous words, spoken over a crackling telephone connection, Children 404 draws to a close; its unsettling conclusion signaled by an image of the Russian landscape fading into obscurity, scrubbed out by a layer of broken cloud seen from above, through an airplane window. The sequence […]

Transform This: iconic Johnny Cash photo used to protest Saskatchewan university cuts

Wed, 30 Apr 2014 13:35:42 +0000

Things may soon be looking grim for many students and faculty at the University of Saskatchewan. The Saskatoon-based institution is looking to slash up to $25 million from its operating budget. In a restructuring process the administration has branded TransformUS, the UofS is currently determining “university priorities”, after which they plan to “eliminate or reduce […]

Abortion at sea: A review of Vessel

Tue, 29 Apr 2014 17:18:14 +0000

Vessel (Diana Whitten, USA, 2014) is fast-paced, heart-thumping adventure into reproductive rights and activism on the high seas. This was one of my favourite films at Hot Docs 2014, and having let the documentary sit with me for a few days, I’ve realized it is as much about abortion as it is about activism, making […]

Evaporating Borders explores asylum-seekers in Cyprus

Tue, 29 Apr 2014 16:05:00 +0000

“… it’s a place I call home, although I blend in only as a familiar stranger.” Evaporating Borders, written and directed by Iva Radivojevic, is a five-act exploration of asylum-seekers in Cyprus. Beginning with a personal, essayistic voiceover and lush compositions, the film’s first act also uses subtly executed re-enactments of events in order to […]

Hot Docs 2014 preview: politically punchy program, but diversity concerns persist

Fri, 25 Apr 2014 17:08:46 +0000

It’s springtime in Toronto and that means Canada’s premiere documentary showcase is back for another jam-packed ten day event that will deliver the world of doc to eager local audiences and international festivalgoers. This is Hot Docs‘s first year with new Executive Director Brett Hendrie steering the ship (Chris McDonald is now overseeing the Bloor […]

Should artists be able to pay taxes with artwork?

Fri, 11 Apr 2014 20:52:21 +0000

As income tax filing deadlines approach across North America, many Mexican artists will be counting canvases instead of pay stubs. In Mexico, a country that has lost over $870 billion to tax evasion and money laundering, hundreds of artists aren’t required to pay a dime in tax. Instead, they pay the government with artwork. For […]