Saturday, May 09, 2015

movie review: Line in the Sand

Line in the Sand
(Canada, 2015)
directors: Tomas Borsa and Jean-Philippe Marquis

Line in the Sand is a feature-length documentary about the how communities in northern British Columbia and Alberta have responded to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. The proposed pipeline would traverse the northern part of British Columbia and part of Alberta, carrying diluted bitumen (dilbit), a toxic, tarry substance, across pristine wilderness to tankers just off the coast of BC, near Prince Rupert.

The pipeline has been controversial for many reasons, including concern about its safety, its possible effect on the environment, and the way it would cross traditional First Nations territory. Borsa and Marquis interviewed ordinary people from communities along the proposed route to ask how they feel about it and why. (You can check out their "Line in the Sand" blog here.)

They start out in Alberta, where they talk to farmers who have entered into agreements to let pipelines cross their land. These farmers have discovered the hard way that the pipeline companies have a great deal of unexpected control over the land once they are on it: for example, they have sued farmers for "trespassing" on their own land. These are the same companies who pay a lump sum, trash the land and render it unusable, then leave a huge mess for the farmers to take care of. The toxicity of what the pipelines transport have left animals dead and with birth defects. However, the companies have no legal obligation to rehabilitate the land, find less toxic ways to do business, or compensate the farmers. Do they have an ethical obligation? The farmers think so.

Borsa and Marquis are personable (they were at the screening I attended in Prince George at the College of New Caledonia, and gave a Q and A for the audience afterwards) and it shows in the natural, expressive interviews they managed to get with regular folks along the proposed pipeline. In the film, one person after another speaks candidly and with passion about what their community and the landscape mean to them. We see beautiful shots of northern British Columbia that help someone who has never been here understand what is at stake. We hear from researchers and scientists who describe the potential risks of the pipeline and the repercussions if there is a spill. There are a few people who speak in favour of the pipeline, but they are outnumbered by those who are against it. (The filmmakers were asked at the screening I attended whether they had sought out people who were in support of the pipeline and they said they had, but the number of people who are in favour of the pipeline in the film is representative of the number of people they found who were willing to do so.)

There is much blunt talk about Enbridge's incredibly poor track record regarding pipeline integrity and spill response. Some of the most arresting footage is from a man who worked on the Kalamazoo spill cleanup--Enbridge fired him after they discovered he had secretly filmed cleanup workers being directed by Enbridge to simply cover up spilled oil with a layer of sand.

The filmmakers interview many First Nations people about land rights, self-governance, and the uncomfortable relationship between large and powerful companies and small, economically depressed First Nations communities.We see large protests against the Northern Gateway and smaller acts of defiance--one series of shots shows a number of colourful handpainted signs in one First Nations community on the pipeline's proposed path.

To me, the main theme of this film is larger than just the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. The filmmakers wisely show us not only the actions of Enbridge to coerce and bully communities into accepting the pipeline--they also dig deep into the federal government's attempts to paint any opposition to the pipeline and similar projects as anti-Canadian, anti-patriotic, and, most frighteningly, as "radical eco-terrorism."

Watching Joe Oliver denounce those who speak out against the pipeline--and watching the charade that was the Joint Review Panel "consultation" process--simply highlights the need for the Canadian public to educate themselves not only about the potential effects of the Northern Gateway project but also the effects of a federal government bent on stifling opposition with swift brutality and little regard for the democratic process.

Overall, this is an excellent documentary. The cinematography is gorgeous, the issues outlined clearly, and the filmmakers wisely let the residents of northern Alberta and northern BC speak for themselves about why they have chosen to draw this particular line in the sand.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Tree Change Doll Peasant Blouse knitting pattern

Tree Change Doll Peasant Blouse

Designed for the Two Rivers Gallery Doll Makeunder Workshop, based on Sonia Singh’s Tree Change Dolls. Pattern inspired by Shellee Floyd’s Magic Loop, One Piece Barbie Dress.

If you want, you can download a PDF of the pattern here


Small amount (18 m or 20 yards) of DK or light worsted yarn
Set of 3.25 mm or US 3 double pointed needles OR long circular for magic loop
Yarn needle


CO 22 sts. Join to knit in the round, being careful not to twist.
Rounds 1 and 2: Knit all sts.
Round 3: *K, yo.* Rep until end of rnd; end with yo.
Round 4: *K 11, CO 11.* Rep once more to end of rnd.
Round 5: PM to mark beg of rnd and join again to knit in the round.
The CO sts now form two armholes for the blouse. You will continue to knit a tube for the rest of the body.
Continue to K in the rnd until blouse is desired length.
When you are ready to bind off, P last rnd.
CO all sts knitwise.
Break yarn and weave in all ends.
You’re done!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

movie review: Phoenix

(Germany, 2014) 
director: Christian Petzold

In Phoenix, Nelly (Nina Hoss), a Jewish jazz singer, manages to escape Auschwitz with a horrible gunshot wound to her face. A plastic surgeon is enlisted, and soon Nelly is recovering with a face that is almost, but not quite, her own. After her terrible experiences in the concentration camp, she is desperate to find her loved ones, but most were killed by the Nazis. However, she is certain that her piano-playing husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfield) is still alive, and she is determined to find him.

Nelly's friend Lene (Nina Kunzendorf), who works at the department of Jewish records, holds secret knowledge about Nelly's husband Johnny. Lene has taken up the role of Nelly's rescuer and is making plans for the two of them to go to Palestine, which will soon be made into a Jewish homeland, a place Lene imagines will be free from anti-Jewish sentiment, free of Nazis, and far enough away fro the Germany of World War II that they will one day be able to bear listening to German songs again. Lene quivers with pride, passion, and barely sublimated desire when speaking to Nelly about the life they will live together there, free from the chaos and hatred of the war. The character is onscreen for a relatively short period of time, yet Kunzendorf manages to convey Lene's inner turmoil beautifully.

However, Nelly still longs to find Johnny, whom she loves and misses dearly; her desperate quest to find him takes her along the dangerous streets in night-time Berlin that are populated with American GIs, street corner musicians, and violent criminals. As Lene watches in helpless anguish, Nelly tracks Johnny down to a nightclub named "Phoenix."

As the nightclub's name implies, Phoenix is both a literal and metaphorical story of transformation. (The metaphorical flavour of the movie helps make Nelly's surprisingly normal post-operative appearance easier to accept.) Post-WWII Germany is portrayed as a society in transition--it is a country still uncertain of how to make reparations for the unrepairable. Can anything ever make up for Nazi crimes against humanity? What do we do about the everyday people who sold out their friends and loved ones to save their own skins? What should Holocaust survivors be given? And importantly, what is it that they need?

Hoss is entirely believable as a woman slowly re-emerging from suspended animation. While she was in the concentration camp, she did not know what was happening to Berlin. Her reactions to the rubble and ruin in the city are poignant. Just as she is rediscovering herself with her own new face, she is also rediscovering her old city with its new face.

Zehrfield has, in some ways, a more challenging role. In some ways he is an enigma; we don't really know what drives him, though we can speculate. We as the audience see him simultaneously through two lenses: we are privy to Lene's knowledge, so we know the truth about him, but because we also see him as Nelly sees him--her true love--his character lends itself to a slightly more complex reading.

The movie's pacing is perfect. It never moves too slowly or too quickly; it maintains tension and keeps the viewer wanting to find out what happens next. But at the same time, it never seems rushed. As events unfold, the movie marches calmly forward to its inevitable climax. We do not quite know exactly how things will be resolved, but we know that no matter what happens, it will not be the ending any of the characters wished for. An audience, however, one could not wish for a more perfect cinematic resolution.