Preview: Belinda and The Issue of Mr. O'Dell at DOXA

The DOXA Documentary Film Festival is upon us! Running from May 3 until May 13, the fest is packed with skillful filmmaking and poignant/exciting/funny/eccentric material galore. Our film reviewers have kindly put together a few selections ahead of time, so that you, dear SAD reader, can enter festival season with some choice titles in mind. Stay tuned for more!

 Film still from Marie Dumora's  Belinda  (2017)

Film still from Marie Dumora's Belinda (2017)

Marie Dumora’s Belinda follows a young Yenish woman in France as she grows from a mischievous nine-year-old into a teenager, and finally into a self-assured young woman. The Yenish people are one of the largest groups of nomadic people of Western Europe—similar and yet culturally distinct to the Roma. Like the Roma, the Yenish people face marginalization, poverty, illiteracy, and rampant crime and incarceration in their communities. When we meet Belinda, she and her sister are being separated into different group homes. Despite having a father in prison and a mother she only gets supervised visits with, Belinda is outgoing and impish. As she ages, she takes on more responsibility, taking care of younger kids. And as a young woman, we meet Belinda as she’s planning her wedding amid rising tensions with her fiancé. He ends up incarcerated, leaving Belinda lonely in the outside world.

Belinda follows its heroine through the most mundane of circumstances, never editing out small talk or long silences. It gives the impression of being unscripted, unedited and raw in its portrayal. Communities such as the Yenish and the Roma are marginalized groups in Europe, often stigmatized and ostracized. Very rarely are their stories told in mainstream media, and it is even more valuable to see the story of a young Yenish woman told as she struggles with her coming of age on the fringes of French society. What Emir Kusturica did for the stories of the Roma in the Balkans, Dumora is doing for Belinda’s people—with a feminine twist. She deals with themes that are common in coming of age stories: struggling with image, finding a place in the world, dreaming of where life might go. But Belinda also deals with poverty and feeling ostracized, with a father and husband in prison. Her story is complex and it is solely hers. Dumora is not telling a tale at all, but rather giving Belinda a spotlight to tell her own truth.

 Film still from Rami Katz's  The Issue of Mr O'Dell  (2018)

Film still from Rami Katz's The Issue of Mr O'Dell (2018)

President John F. Kennedy once called African-American civil rights activist Jack O’Dell the number five communist in America. Now 94 years old and living in Vancouver with his partner Jane, O’Dell continues to speak out about racial injustices and civil rights. Before moving to Vancouver, O’Dell worked alongside Dr. King in the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and was outspoken about labour rights and equality. Filmmaker Rami Katz combines archival material with beautifully shot footage of O’Dell in conversation to weave the story of a man who has fought his whole life for justice. O’Dell tells stories of his time with Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement before he had to depart, due to his past membership with the Communist Party. He talks about the labour movement, about his family, his experience of being followed by the FBI, and his views on the oppressive structures of capitalism and racism. The story leads us to present day, with continued racism, police brutality, and movements like Black Lives Matter.

O’Dell is articulate and humble, despite the magnitude of his experience and impact. The archival material serves to contextualize O’Dell’s stories and to corroborate some of his anecdotes. He tells his stories with humour and wisdom. Jack O’Dell is without doubt a man whose accomplishments warrant celebration and spotlight. It is difficult—if not impossible—to capture the entirety of O’Dell’s legacy, but Katz gives the audience a glimpse into the life and work of not only Jack O’Dell as a man, but also the singular moment of resistance he symbolizes.

 

Belinda will be screening on Saturday, May 5 at 2:15pm and on Thursday, May 10 at 8:00pm. Tickets can be purchased hereThe Issue of Mr. O'Dell will be screening on Saturday, May 5 at 6:00pm and on Tuesday, May 8 at 2:45pm. Tickets can be purchased here.