Bougainville: A Textbook in Colonization

Ophir*

Directed by Alexandre Berman and Olivier Pollet

Film Review

This documentary traces the history behind the 2019 referendum in which 98% of Bougainville island (which is mainly run by women) voted for independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG)

The referendum has its history in the “Bougainville Crisis,” a ten-year insurrection which the government of PNG lost, despite receiving major military support from Australia. The independence referendum was a condition of the 2000 peace treaty.

The insurrection, in turn, stemmed from the brutal exploitation of Ophir residents, many of whom were driven off their land. The oppressors? The the PNG government and a major copper and gold mining operation run by a Rio Tinto** subsidiary. The Paguna mine closed down when the insurrection started in 1989. However even after 30 years, Ohpir’s fragile tropical ecosystem is only just starting to recover.

The film offers numerous scenes from the independence campaign, interspersed with historical background and excerpts from the 2009 DCR (Australian Development Cooperation Report), which focuses on potential strategies for Australian mining interests to recolonize the island.

Despite their landslide victory on the referendum, Ophir has yet to be granted full independence.


*Ophir is the indigenous name for Bougainville Island, currently part of Papua New Guinea

**Rio Tinto, a multinational Anglo-Australian mining conglomerate, is the second largest metal and mining corporation in the world.

The full film can be view at the Maori TV website for the next 21 days: https://www.maoritelevision.com/shows/feature-documentaries/S01E001/ophir

 

Feminism in the Cherokee Nation

Wilma Pearl Mankiller timeline | Timetoast timelines

Mankiller

Directed by Valerie Rehorse Mole (2017)

Film Review

This 2017 documentary is a tribute to the late feminist Native American Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to become a Cherokee Nation Principal chief in 1985.

The precolonial Cherokee Nation as a matriarchal society in which children, property and homes all belonged to women. Early British settlers belittled the Cherokee as a “petticoat” culture because female elders to signed along with men. With the Trail of Tears and the mass relocation of Cherokee from the Southeast to Oklahoma, European patriarchal values (which treated women as chattel) gradually prevailed.

Mankiller was born to an extremely poor family in Mankiller Flats Oklahoma. In the mid fifties the family was relocated to San Francisco by the same US official responsible for Japanese internment during World War II. There the family were housed in the notorious Hunter’s Point housing project.

During the 1960s, Mankiller worked together with United Food Workers activist Dolores Huerta and helped the Black Panthers with their children’s breakfast program. In 1969 she participated in the Native American occupation of Alcatraz and Pitt River land seized illegally by PG&E and the federal government.

In 1977, she returned to Mankiller Flats, where she launched numerous community projects to assist local Cherokee communities to become independent of corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs (BAF) control. Elected deputy chief in 1983, she assumed the role of Principal Chief in 1985, after Clinton appointed her predecessor as Undersecretary of the Interior. She was elected in her own right in 1985 and 1990.

After developing lymphoma in 1995, she chose not to run for reelection. Nevertheless she continued to actively campaign for her tribe’s economic and political independence until her death in 2010.

One of her most important achievements was involving the Cherokee Nation in the gaming industry. This not only freed them from economic dependence on the BAF, but created thousands of jobs and funded the construction of four major health care centers.

The film can be viewed free on Kanopy.

 

The Iroquois Confederacy: Model for US Democracy

Digital Wampum Testimony of the Iroquois

Tree Media (2015)

Film Review

This is a series of eight short vignettes about the Haudenosnunee Confederacy formed in North America some time between the 12th and 16th century. Also known as the Iroquois Confederacy, this governance model inspired the Articles of Confederation adopted by European settlers following the US War of Independence.

Narrated by Chief Oren Lyons, this oral history concerns a legendary Peace Maker who induced 49 leaders from four warring nations to gather at Lake Onondago (in central New York state) to iron out a permanent system of peace, equity and “the power of good minds to make good decisions.”

The six nations who made up the Haudenosunee Confederacy at the time of European settlement: the Mohawk, Oneida, Tuscarora, Seneca and Onondago.

Part 2 of the series concerns lacrosse, now a world sport, a game devised by the Onondago, Parts 3, 5 and 6 concern predictions the Peace Maker made about climate change, Part 4 concerns the tradition of “scalping,” which was devised by Europeans as part of their campaign of extermination against Native Americans, Part 7 concerns the so-called “Doctrine of Discovery” (which denies property rights to all non-Christians in European colonized territories), based on a proclamation issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493.

 

 

Puerto Rico: A Modern Day US Colony

Although Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917 ...

America’s Backyard: Puerto Rico

Press TV 2014

Film Review

This Press TV documentary concerns ongoing oppression in America’s best-known colony Puerto Rico. In 1917, all native-born Puerto Ricans were declared US citizens (despite overwhelming opposition on the island), resulting in a disproportionate number being drafted to serve in the two world wars and Vietnam. Although Although Puerto Rico is officially classified as a “self-governing” commonwealth, the US Congress retains the power to overrule decisions of its Senate and Legislative Assembly.

The colony has a heavily suppressed independence movement, targeted both by an FBI’s Cointelpro* operation for surveillance, phone taps and infiltration and by right-wing CIA ant-Castro death quads.

At present, only a minority of Puerto Ricans support independence, with the majority supporting either statehood or continuing colonial status. Although Puerto Rico enjoys a much lower standard of living than the mainland US, it’s significantly wealthier than its Caribbean neighbors. Residents worry independence would seriously harm the Puerto Rican economy.

The US Navy’s fifty-year use of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for bombing practice remains a sore point for many local activists. In 1999, the accidental bombing of a scenic observation area (killing a local security guard) resulted in a successful nonviolent campaign to stop the bombing practice.

The US continues to drag its feet on a promised toxic cleanup of Vieques, which was also used to dump jet fuel and other industrial wastes. Leakage of toxic chemicals to nearby civilian areas means the island has a 30% high cancer rate than the rest of Puerto Rico.


*Cointelpro is the name given to an FBI counterintelligence program started in 1956 to spy on US political activists. Although it officially ended in 1971, illegal FBI surveillance, infiltration and disruption of union and human rights organizations continue to the present day.

The film can be viewed free at https://www.presstv.com/doc/detail/12956

The Rise of Hindu Nationalism in India

In Search of India’s Soul Part 2

Directed by Bruno Rosso (A Jazeera) 2020

Film Review

Part 2 of this series looks at significant triggers leading to the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a once-obscure Hindu nationalist party. The first were December 1992 riots that occurred following the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque by Hindu activists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).* The mosque was built in the 16th century on the site of a Hindu temple demolished by Mogul occupiers. Two thousand people would be killed in the ensuing riots.

The second trigger was a long running TV adaption (starting in the 1980s) of the Ramayan.**

The third involves a court case that overturned a Muslim divorce,*** In 1986, then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi sponsored a law, which proved extremely controversial among women’s rights and Hindu activists, vacated the court ruling.

The final trigger was a February 2002 incident in which Hindu activists set fire to a train of Muslims returning from the Burbury Mosque. After allowing Hindu activists to parade the 38 charred corpses through the streets, local police stood by as a thousand people (75% Muslim) were killed in riots that ensued. As president of the state of Gujurat, future Indian president Narendra Modi was barred from visiting the US for 10 years, following his failure to intervene in the riots.

The film also includes an illuminating segment about Hindu attacks on Indian Christian communities. In 2008, 40,000 Christians came under attack, with their hospitals and schools being burned, and several nuns being raped.

For me the most interesting segment concerns a recent trend for Hindu Dalits (Untouchables) to convert to Islam to escape the discrimination and exploitation they experience under the Hindu religion.****

At the film’s conclusion journalist (and narrator) Aatish Taseer is stripped of his Indian citizenship owing to an article critical of Narendra Modi he published in Time magazine.


*The RSS is the largest civil society in the world fighting for Hindu supremacy.

**The Rāmāyan is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient Indian history, the other being the Mahābhārata.

***Under Muslim law, a man can divorce a woman (and absolve himself of any responsibility for child support or spousal maintenance) by repeating three times “I divorce you.”

****Hinduism is the only religion in the world that purposely enforces Inequality based on circumstances of birth.

 

India’s BJP and the Right Wing Nationalist Government of Narenda Modi

In Search of India’s Soul: From Mughals to Modi Episode 1

Directed by Bruno Rosso (Al Jazeera) 2020

Film Review

In this documentary series, writer and journalist Aatish Taseer returns to his country of birth, to investigate increasing vigilante violence by Hindus against Indian Muslims.

India’s current 1.25 billion population breaks down into 1 billion Hindus, 200 million Muslims and 50 million members of other faiths (mainly Sikh, Buddhist and Christian). When India obtained independence from Britain in 1947, it was divided into Pakistan, which adopted Islam as its official religion, and India, remained a secular state. Many Muslims born in British-occupied India emigrated to Pakistan. However many remained.The last three decades has seen the rise of Hindu nationalism, which helped bring right wing Hindu nationalist party BJP and Narenda Modi to power in 2014. Many analysts believe Modi is deliberately stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, just as Trump stoked anti-immigrant and anti-minority sentiment to win votes in the US.

In Part 1, Taseer mainly investigates the vigilante attacks by Hindu nationalists against Muslim cow herdsmen and traders (at present cattle is a big export for India, even though cows are sacred in the Hindu religion). Although numerous Muslims have been killed in the attacks, no perpetrators have been convicted as yet.  When the Congress party recently replaced the BJP in the state of Rajasthan, the new government passed an anti-lynching law and launched an appeal against the acquittal of six Hindu nationalists in a high-profile murder case.

At least half of the film is devoted to Taseer’s efforts to understand the intensity of the anger Hindus feel towards Muslims they have lived alongside for 500 years. Most of the Hindus he interviews blame historical atrocities by Emperor Barbur, founder of the Mughal Empire. He and the sixth Mughul emperor Aurangzeb destroyed many Hindu temples to force Hindus to convert to Islam.

An Indian psychiatrist Taseer interviews a psychiatrist who points out that India was under continuous occupation (first by Mughal and then by the British) between 1526 and 1947.  He blames the ongoing racial hatred on intergenerational trauma stemming from colonization.

The Maquiladoras: What’s Really Going on at the Mexican Border

Maquilapolis

Directed by Sergio de la Torre and Vicky Funari (2006)

Film Review

This documentary documents the untold history of the Mexican women who built a union movement among the the 800+ maquiladoras on the Mexican side of the US/Mexico border.

In the 1960s the US and Mexico signed a treaty to establish duty-free factories (known as maqiladoras) just south of the US border. This US corporations to take advantage of cheap Mexican labor without paying import duties.

Because wages were higher than elsewhere in Mexico (with jobs practically non-existent in rural areas), the maquiladoras attracted workers from all over Mexico. Despite the higher wages, working conditions were abysmal, with workers being denied toilet breaks and experience toxic exposures and bullying from management.

The number of maquiladoras increased substantially after passage of NAFTA (North American Fair Trade Agreement) in 1994 reduced tariffs and duties still further.

At the time of filming, women comprised 80% of the maquiladora workforce. Employers prefer female workers, especially in electronics assembly as they have smaller, more agile hands and are viewed as more docile and compliant. Most were single mothers.

The film tells the story of the long struggle of Chipanchingo Collective for Environmental Justice to successfully form a union to improve working and living conditions.

The response by numerous corporations has been to move their factories to Indonesia, where there are no unions and wages are lower still.

 

The Role of Slavery in Chocolate Production

Chocolate’s Heart of Darkness

Directed by Paul Moreira (DW) 2019

Film Review

In this documentary, filmmaker Paul Moreira visits illegal cacao plantations in the Ivory Coast that employ child slaves to prepare the cacao beans they sell to local cooperatives. One third of plantation workers are children, most immigrants from drought and violence plagued Burkina Faso.

Parents sell children to traffickers for the equivalent of 300 euros each. The traffickers, in turn, sell them to growers. Typically the children work without pay for up to six years. Then growers with a small plot of land to grow their own cacao. In addition to performing forced labor, the children are required to spray plantations with lymphoma-linked Roundup without protective masks or suits.

The illegal plantations result from systematic deforestation of “classified” forest reserves.

The Ministry of Forests is supposed to enforce laws again child labor, slavery and illegal deforestation but clearly fails to do so. Likewise Cargill and other global food merchants are in violation of international agreements not to purchase beans from illegal plantations.

The global chocolate industry generates $100 billion annually, with growers receiving only six percent of this income.

How the West Steals Congo’s Mineral Wealth

Congo My Precious

Directed by Anastasia Trofimova (2017)

Film Review

This documentary exposes the shocking reality that the standard of living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DAR) hasn’t improved since it was the personal property of Belgian King Leopold II.

As of 1960, when Congo first declared independence, the country provides 60% of the world’s uranium, 70% of its cobalt, 65% of its coltan (essential for manufacturing cellphones, laptops and nuclear reactors), 70% of its industrial diamonds, as well as substantial quantities of cassiterite and gold.

Following independence, the CIA assassinated the country’s first president Patrice Lamumba, and Belgium, determined to protect its monopoly on the country’s precious minerals, launched a four-year mercenary war.

Between 1967-83, the country enjoyed a brief period of relative wealth when CIA-installed dictator Mobutu Seko Sese was on good terms with the US and Britain. In 1973, he made a UN speech condemning Western powers for brutally exploiting his country for its mineral wealth. In response, the West cut off all aid to Zaire (DAR was known as Zaire between 1971-97). In 1997, the US supported a joint Kenyan/Rwandan effort to invade DAR and remove Mobutu from power.

DAR has been in a continuous state of civil war ever since. Both the CIA and British intelligence provide weapons and other aid to the rebel groups that control access to important mines. See The CIA and the Congo’s 20-year Civil War

Exporters pay mineworkers $6/kg for coltan and cassiterite (which is insufficient to cover their living expenses). Which they on-sell to Western markets to for $120/kg.

The Western-sponsored civil war (efforts to disarm various rebel groups are ongoing – see DR Congo Ituri Rebels Disarmament), makes it virtually impossible for workers to organizer for better pay.

The School to Prison Pipeline: Abuse, Trauma and the Criminalization of Black Girls

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls

Directed by Jacoba Atlas (2019)

Film Review

In the US, it is quite common to see African American girls excluded from school for “insubordination.” The label tends to have a very different meaning for white and Black teachers. It is common for white teachers to misconstrue a Black girl’s distress over heavy family responsibility or bullying as a bad attitude.

  • In primary school, Black girls are six times more likely than white girls to receive one or more suspensions.
  • In high school, they are three times more likely than white girls to be suspended.
  • At all levels, they are three times more likely to be physically restrained.
  • In high school, they are twice as likely to receive corporal punishment.
  • In high school, they are three times more likely to be referred to law enforcement.
  • The suicide rate of Black students of either sex is twice that of white students.

Overall there is growing concern about all US teenagers being stripped of their First and Fourth amendment in public schools. The film refers to a 12-year-old Black girl being forcibly strip searched by her principal for “being too happy.”

The filmmakers interview an African American judge who reveals that sexual abuse and/or neglect is the common denominator for Black girls who end up in the criminal justice system. When they are pushed out of school for “attitude” problems, they are the drop-outs most likely to be assaulted and/or sex trafficked on the street. And despite being the victims of sex trafficking, the girls themselves are targeted for prosecution.

Much of the film was shot in a New York program where teachers receive specialized training in working with traumatized students and employ resource materials openly acknowledging the oppression experienced by African American girls and their families. In an environment free of surveillance, policing and a punitive attitude towards discipline, students learning to de-escalate their anger and openly express their vulnerability.

Public library patrons can view the full film free at Beamafilm.