Caipirinha Productions // 2010 // 72 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // August 27th, 2011
A resistance travelogue on art and creativity.
There is a lot of horror in this world, important stories of death and repression that get obscured in the media by talk of debt ceilings and 4G coverage. An understanding of people who struggle against the suppressive forces of their governments, bloody as those fights may get, is necessary for an understanding of the world that we live in. It's tough, though, because these stories often take the side of the group most vital to our national interests, regardless of whose rights are being violated. It takes effort to learn both sides of an issue, but luckily there are people in this world like director Iara Lee (Modulations), founder of the Caipirinha Foundation, who brings these alternate sides into view, and her Cultures of Resistance documentary serves as a great primer for some of these freedom fighters and artists who struggle against their oppressors.
Over seventy minutes, Lee travels the globe, from Brazil to Liberia to Burma and back again, showing us how individuals use their creative powers to push back against violence and repression. Each segment lasts about ten minutes and gives a solid, if incomplete picture of the problem and what these artists and activists do to try solving it. Lest you think, however, that this sounds like some hippy love fest for the cultures of the world, Lee pulls no punches with her imagery. Certainly, there is beauty in their art, but it comes on the heels of some deeply morbid sights. Seeing these images is unpleasant, but important. We can scream out that children are dying in this place or that, but it is far more impactful to see the dead children. To hear a former child soldier describe some of the horrors that he took active part in is absolutely chilling, and there are plenty of such stories to go around. It's not nice, but resistance rarely is. Lee makes a point to note the importance to not equate peace with justice, as the quest for justice is often met with government crackdown and violence from their end, no matter how peaceful the resistance may be.
Cultures of Resistance isn't all blood and guts, either. There is a lot of very good art on display, as well. We see political hip-hop from the Palestinians, a Brazilian who turned an AK-47 into a guitar, graffiti artists across the world, and the inimitable Fela Kuti, one of the most important musical artists of the 20th Century, regardless of nation origin, in archival footage along with his son Femi, who's pretty good in his own right and, of course, alive. The film's most encouraging moments come near the end when Lee details a massive poetry convention featuring artists from around the world. Seeing all these disparate cultures come together to celebrate peace and art is a beautiful thing and helps to promote the type of understanding necessary to affect change.
The disc for Cultures of Resistance isn't perfect, but it's very decent given what there was to work with. All of the new footage was shot on digital video and is accordingly clear; it's average for a documentary, but no more than that. The archival footage comes from multiple sources, so the image varies greatly. The transfer, though, on the whole, is error-free and just fine. The surround mix doesn't feature the rear channels much at all, but the words and music all sound perfectly clear in the front end. The extras are limited to around 20 minutes of deleted scenes, but all of them are just as good as what's in the film. It's a very good disc.
If I have a complaint about the film, it's the length of the segments and the overall film. Each of the stories presented could and should be the subject of its own full-length piece, and they all fall a little short in detail. If any of them open eyes to further research, however, Cultures of Resistance has done its job and I can't really argue.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Caipirinha Productions
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 72 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site