Day 7: The Festival Closes as the John Michaels Winners are Announced and The Best of the Fest are Showcased at Longbranch

Earlier in the week, we announced the John Micheals Award winners and today we will be showcasing them again at the Carbondale Public Library at 2 pm. The winner of the John Michaels Award is Left on Pearl. Directed by Susie Rivo, Left on Pearl captures the moment when a generation of women rose up to resist their second-class status.

In 1971 classified ads for employment were still segregated by gender, battered women’s shelters did not exist, abortion was illegal, and married women couldn’t open a bank account without their husbands’ permission. This film is about the movement that changed all that. This fast-paced 55 minute documentary focuses on a highly significant but little-known event in the history of the women’s liberation movement, the 1971 takeover and occupation of a Harvard University-owned building by hundreds of Boston area women. The ten-day occupation of 888 Memorial Drive by women demanding a Women’s Center and low income housing for the community in which the building stood, embodied within it many of the hopes and glories – as well as the conflicts and fault lines – of what came to be known as Second Wave feminism. One of the few takeovers by women for women, this radical action proved life-changing for the participants and led directly to the founding of the longest continuously operating Women’s Center in the U.S.

Through extensive TV news coverage from the time, newspaper headlines, found footage, and interviews with participants and eyewitnesses of varied sexual orientations, racial, class and ethnic backgrounds (including both supporters and opponents of the takeover), Left on Pearl documents a watershed moment in the early days of the Women’s Liberation Movement, situating it within the broader political ferment of the time – the anti-war, civil rights, Black Power and gay liberation movements. The film highlights the hilarity and excitement, as well as the challenges and fault-lines within this social movement.

The runner-up is Evidence of the Evidence, a work of “archival vérité“ and a meta-reflection on the role of the camera as both a weapon and a maker of history. Directed by Alexander Johnston, Evidence of the Evidence chronicles the infamous 1971 Attica prison uprising. This radical yet tragic event in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement is represented through a granular and visceral interrogation of a collection of video footage shot by a rank and file state trooper on the ground at Attica. In an era of resurgent racism and authoritarianism throughout the West, Johnston’s film is a timely and urgent work of both agit-prop and media criticism.

Lastly, our honorable mention is The Valley Rebels. Directed by Spencer Wolff, The Valley Rebels depicts the life of Cédric Herrou. Cédric Herrou is a farmer who supports and houses African refugees in the alpine village of Breil-Sur-Roya in southern France. Some regard him as a heroic good samaritan, but others – including the French border police and state prosecutor – denounce him as the leader of a band of smugglers, bringing migrants from Italy into France while flouting official border controls. As Cedric moves from one prosecution to another, why do he and his fellow activists feel compelled to defy the authorities?

Herrou’s olive farm lies in a picturesque valley on France’s Italian border near a popular route for refugees trying to slip past border controls. Since the French government tightened security along the coastal route into France, refugees began climbing up the valley seeking a new route in, appearing suddenly on the sides of roads or in local villages. Since then, Cédric’s farm has become home to an unofficial camp for an ever-changing set of young refugees and who climb up the valley where he lives.

Cedric and the other activists are defiant. They say they are upholding French and international law, whereas the authorities are violating it, especially where it concerns child refugees.

Yet with multiple prosecutions coming Cédric’s way, and the political atmosphere in France veering towards the extreme right, is Cedric fighting a losing battle? The activities of Cédric and the other residents of the valley offer a microcosm of the conflicted relationship of French citizens with the influx of refugees into France and Europe.

Later on tonight from 5-7pm at Longbranch Cafe & Bakery, we will showcase the winners of The Best of the Fest. The films were juried by our special visiting artists, Ben Kalina, Tom Ludwig and Adoma Akosua Owusu and they were selected into genre-specific categories such as Best Narrative Feature or Best Experimental Short. Most, if not all, of the films will we screened tonight, so if you missed out on them, here’s another chance to check them out.