DECONSTRUCTING CRACK HO, Swallow, Lessons In Conquest (Ariel Lightningchild) Rating: NNNN
The scope of Toronto's aluCine Latin Media Festival (June 1 to 10) is much wider than Spain, Portugal and Latin America. The fest's seventh incarnation focuses on Argentina but features short films from around the world.
Three of the most powerful on the slate are by Canada's Ariel Lightningchild, a half-Irish, half-native Canadian former prostitute and crack addict who has bravely turned her life story into a searing video examination of race and sexuality.
The first, Deconstructing Crack Ho (rating: NNN ) outlines Lightningchild's early life as a victim of incest and other sexual abuse. She left home at 11, started using drugs and began the kiddie stroll, turning tricks at age 12. Adept at juxtaposition, she uses shots of herself with pom-poms, or those alphabet magnets everyone had as children, while talking about johns trying to reclaim their youth through her.
Next up is Swallow (rating: NNNN ), the most disturbing of the three and an incisive condemnation of both Hollywood and the ivory tower.
Lightningchild takes direct aim at movies like Pretty Woman and their glammed-up idea of prostitution by aping sexy scenes - boots zipping up, eye shadow being applied - in harsh and unflattering light.
She denounces academic and feminist support of prostitution for ignoring the industry's pervasive racism, not to mention its danger and degradation. In the film's most damning line, when johns find out she's native they want it for cheaper.
Lessons In Conquest (rating: NN ) is more experimental. Lightningchild draws comparisons between native North Americans and the Irish, both of whom were victims of British imperialism. There are lots of images of crowns, blood and suffocation; it's unsettling but in the end less personal and therefore less moving than the other two films. All three screen Wednesday (June 7), at the NFB.