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

 

Oregon’s 1994 Death with Dignity Law

How to Die in Oregon

Directed by Peter D Richardson (2011)

Film Review

On September 19, the End of Life Choice Act referendum will be on the ballot in New Zealand. This documentary profiles Oregon’s 1994 Death with Dignity law (enacted by citizens initiated referendum). The latter permits doctors to prescribe a lethal quantity of barbiturates to allow terminal patients to end their lives. Unlike doctor-assisted suicide, patients must be able to self-administer the lethal cocktail. In 1994, Oregon, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were the only jurisdictions that allowed terminal patients to end their lives. As of 2011, a surprisingly small number of Oregon patients had taken their lives under the law.

The film profiles three terminally ill individuals who have secured lethal barbiturate prescriptions after satisfying specific medical criteria and the trained patient advocates who offer reassurance and counseling to all patients in the program. The filmmakers follow one patient and his family through the entire process.

They also interview opponents of right-to-die laws. The most concerning argument against them is the possibility a budget-strapped state will offer state sanctioned suicide as an alternative to expensive treatment regimes and good palliative care. In fact one Oregon patient shows filmmakers a letter from the Oregon Health Plan denying him a second round of chemotherapy and offering assisted suicide as a possible alternative.*

The film also profiles a Washington State woman campaigning for Washington State’s Death with Dignity referendum (approved in 2008), after watching her husband suffer horribly with terminal brain cancer.


*When he goes public with the letter, the OHP decides to allow the chemotherapy.

Anyone with a public library card can view the full film free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

Cities Take Back Power

Power to the City

VPRO (2014)

Film Review

This documentary argues for shifting major political power away from countries to cities, in part due to the current paralysis national governments face in enacting legislation and in part to the greater likelihood of bottom-up democratic participation in decisions that are made locally.

The filmmakers interview various political scientists who argue for a return to the system of city-state governance that was prevalent prior to the era of colonization.

They give three recent examples in which cities have collaborated with grassroots citizens movements to enact reforms which went on to have major national and global influence:

1. Seattle (Washington) – which in 2014 voted to enact a mandatory $15/hr living wage.

2. Eindhoven (Netherlands) – where citizens collaborated with business leaders and elected officials to create a high tech hub to replace 36,000 jobs that were lost overseas.

3. Hamburg (Germany) – which has  retained its pre-1871 city-state governance structure as a federal state within the German federation. As such, it takes on numerous functions normally performed by a national or state government – such as collecting taxes and running schools and universities. It allows its citizens to enact legislation by binding referendum, and in 2014 they voted to buy back the energy grid from a private Swedish company (to hasten its transformation to renewable energy).

 

The Invisible War in Kashmir

Kashmir: Born to Fight

Al Jazeera (2017)

Kashmir, a majority Muslim state, has been demanding independence from India since the late 1980s. They were promised a referendum on independence in 1947, when India was first divided from Pakistan. After 70 years, they’re still waiting.

The majority of Kashmiri seek full independence, though some seek unification with Pakistan.

The region is currently under Indian military occupation (Kashmir is the most militarized region in the world) and virtual martial law. Kashmir’ civilian population is routinely subjected to rape, torture, extrajudicial killings, raids on civil homes and the shutdown of local newspapers.

This documentary profiles a 13 year girl who was arbitrarily beaten and blinded after being shot by Indian security forces. Their brutality against women, children and the elderly is having a clear radicalizing effect on young Kashmiri males.

Donald Trump: Making the World Safe for Golf

Dark Side of the Greens

Directed by Anthony Baxter (BBC 2015)

Film Review

Dark Side of the Greens is about lengthy citizen campaigns in Scotland and Croatia to halt Donald Trump’s efforts to replace pristine ecological heritage sites with golf courses.

The documentary is a sequel to the 2011 film You’ve Been Trumped. It relies heavily on commentary by environmental lawyer Robert F Kennedy Jr, president of the Waterkeeper Alliance. He reminds us that governmental protection of the commons dates back to the Magna Carta and can’t be usurped by wealthy elates. According to Kennedy, the commons is the main source of values, virtue and character of a people.

Aberdeen residents were unsuccessful in preventing Trump from destroying one of Europe’s rarest sand dune formations to build his golf course cum gated resort (the subject of You’ve Been Trumped). However a staunch local farmer led a successful multi-year campaign to prevent Trump from building a second golf course.

Local residents also successfully resisted Trump’s efforts to stop an offshore wind farm which presently supplies 40% of Aberdeen’s residential electricity needs.

Over in Dubrovnak, the citizens successfully organized Croatia’s first citizens referendum to prevent Trump from destroying a world heritage site for a golf course, resort and exclusive gated community.

After 85% of the population voted against the project, the mayor (who has since been indicted on corruption charges) ignored the referendum and signed contracts to proceed with the golf courses.

The film is full of classic Trumpisms, such as “What’s great for golf is good for Scotland.”