CRISIS ZONESat the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park). Runs to April 19. Free.
ANGOLA: SAUDADES FROM THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU (Richard Pakleppa). Subtitled. Tonight (Thursday, April 12) at 7 pm. Rating: NNNN
OPERATION ATROPOS (Coco Fusco). Thursday, April 19, at 7 pm. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Angola, with its fledgling demo- cracy and vast natural resources of oil and diamonds, could be considered an African success story. But while it may have a capitalist economy, it lacks a social safety net anything like those in the First World.
Namibian director Richard Pakleppa juxtaposes images of ritzy speedboats and those of young boys out of their heads on gas fumes eating rice off cardboard boxes. Woven together with the pictures are interviews, beautiful indigenous music and a haunting, hypnotic voice reading letters from an unnamed Angolan. The film is gorgeous - and humbling. It screens tonight (Thursday, April 12) as part of the Crisis Zones series at the ROM.
Next week's offering, Operation Atropos, is more provocative but in a way less satisfying. Galvanized by the images of Abu Ghraib, Cuban-American filmmaker Coco Fusco invites six self-described "lefty women" to become "prisoners" at a boot camp in Pennsylvania where retired military interrogators teach their methods to civilians.
While the film illustrates a number of horrible things about military techniques (not least that they are being taught to anybody for a fee), here the presence of the cameras (occasionally in the frame) and the fact that this is a staged exercise have a distancing effect. Compounding the problem are the interrogators' astoundingly bad fake accents (unidentifiable but presumably signifying that the speakers are from some unnamed country) and the fact that at least some of the women clearly haven't forgotten that this is a game.
What's most interesting is the leaders' suggestion that interrogators often stage circumstances that actual POWs report as abuse: four out of the seven women give up information because they believe one of their group is being hurt, but because they're wearing hoods at the time they don't know an actor is faking her screams. Whether such techniques themselves constitute torture is a question left unanswered.
If you're interested in asking it yourself, Fusco will attend the screening and take part in a discussion moderated by NOW's Cameron Bailey.