WOW Film Festival: Voices of Resistance

Posted on: 01 Mar 2017 by David Gillam

WOW Wales One World Film Festival makes its annual visit to Chapter on Fri 17 - Sun 19 March. Here Festival Director, David Gillam, talks about the 'Voices of Resistance' theme which runs throughout the festival.

This year with all the political upheavals going on around us I thought it was a good time to focus on the stories of people around the world who are bravely standing up to the forces that rule their lives.

Bringing together stories from all around the world as we do WOW has always tried to champion unheard voices and showcase points of view that help us to see our world in a different way. So it seems particularly appropriate right now to put together a ‘Voices of Resistance’ season that includes Ambulance (Palestine), The War Show (Syria), Those Who Jump (Denmark), Tomorrow (France), Shadow World (USA), Clash! (Egypt), and Neruda (Chile).

I’m huge fan of the wildly romantic poetry of Pablo Neruda, Nobel-prize winning poet, Socialist Senator, hero of the people, and if the film of the same name is to be believed a vain, drunken, pain-in-the-arse. I generally hate ‘biopics’, a wretched genre that all too often features unimaginative directors trying to ‘capture’ a person’s life in two hours of plodding boredom from cradle to grave. But with Neruda, director Pablo Lorrain (Jackie, No) has made what he calls an ‘anti-bio’, concentrating on a short period of Neruda’s life when he went on the run from the Chilean government. With a dogged detective trailing him round the country this becomes an exploration of how both men have their own personal myths that they live by and asks ‘Do we all create the stories of our lives with ourselves as heroes?’. With yet another skillful performance from the wonderful Gael Garcia Bernal at its centre and all the trappings of a 40s gangster movie, this fascinating take on one man’s life puts all previous ‘biopics’ to shame.

Dynamic and constantly engaging Clash is surprisingly kinetic – given that the whole thing plays out in the back of a police truck over a long hot day. Expertly handling the back stories of half a dozen characters this is particularly good at exploring what drives people out onto the streets when they know they’ll be met with armed police, water cannons and all that a repressive state can muster.

While Clash & Neruda use all the tools of well-scripted drama to bring home with great emotional force the harsh realities of standing up for what you believe in. Ambulance, The War Show and Those Who Jump are all very personal documentaries that are every bit as emotionally gripping as any drama. Recorded by the protagonists themselves who felt compelled to pick up a camera to record what they and their friends were going through. All are front-line, very personal inside accounts of how global forces impact on individual’s lives, be that in the struggle to oust Assad in Syria, living under Israeli bombardment in Gaza, or as migrants who crossed Africa to try and gain entry to Europe.

We are picking up the themes of the ‘Voices of Resistance’ films - migration, the arms trade, Palestine, Syria, etc - through a series of events, panels, Q&As, poetry readings, choirs, a Chilean group performing a Victor Jara version of a Neruda poem etc. In Chapter we’ll be running a Social Activists day with stalls and workshops from Hope Not Hate, an Eco-Assembly led by the people from the Cardiff People’s Assembly, and others.

Personally I feel an increasing urgency to confront the forces of darkness more directly than by simply signing on-line petitions. So I recently spent a happy day helping the good people at Reclaim The Power to close down the opencast mine at Ffos-y fran. If you too feel it's time to ‘Get Active!’ come along and join in the discussions and workshops we’ve wrapped around the films.

The idea for WOW’s ‘Voices of Resistance’ season came from discussions between myself and WOW Marketing Officer, Rhowan Alleyne, and was inspired by Dani and her colleagues in the International Politics Department at Aberystwyth who have put together Stitched Voices, a lovely exhibition of textiles from Chile, Colombia, Wales, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Spain and Mexico that respond to conflict.

WOW Film Festival 2017 comes to Chapter Fri 17 - Sun 19 March. Click here for full programme listings and booking. For more information on workshops and speakers, click here to visit the WOW website.

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