Welcome to the 2018 Displacements Film Festival. Documentary and ethnographic film, as a form of visual and sensorial storytelling, offers its audiences a tangible sense of place and space, contextualizing large-scale cultural and environmental phenomena (like globalization, climate change, political instability) through personal narratives, family biographies, and portraits of local communities.

Building on the theme of “Displacements,” the seventeen films featured in this year’s festival actively disrupt a seamless sense of place and home. These films paint vivid portraits of lives in transition, and of places and spaces in various states of upheaval. These films give viewers a sense of how global phenomena and process play out on local and regional levels, showing how the least powerful, those most vulnerable and disenfranchised, contend with the accelerated pace of cultural, political, and environmental change. Displacement today is pervasive and devastating for so many, threatening the sense of home: of feeling safe, feeling protected, feeling at home. As the idea of home grows increasingly uncertain, these seventeen films capture glimpses of the perennial sense of precarity that characterizes most lives in the 21st century.

We hope you enjoy this carefully curated program of films to accompany this virtual conference. You are invited to watch the films in any order and at any time between April 19-21, 2018. We encourage you to reach out to the filmmakers to share your comments and questions. As film and media-makers ourselves, we speak from personal experience that the makers of these films are eager to hear from you and welcome your feedback.

Fiona P. McDonald & Harjant S. Gill
2018 Displacement Virtual Film Festival Curators

Films in alphabetical order (links go to password-protected videos, located offsite):

A Letter to Mohamed
35 min
Christine Moderbacher

Revolution, Politics, Middle East

Filmed during the first year after the Tunisian Revolution, A Letter to Mohamed is a poetic journey through a troubled country. Between revolution and new political system, dictatorship and first elections, order and chaos the film shows a landscape of disillusion, but also humor and hope. It is a compilation of fragments about the aftermath of a revolution, intercut with a letter about the personal impressions of the filmmaker’s journey.

Awake, A Dream From Standing Rock
88 min
Josh Fox, James Spione, Myron Dewey

Environmental Justice, Water Rights, Resistance

A collaboration between Indigenous filmmaker Myron Dewey and Oscar-nominated directors Josh Fox and James Spione, the three-part documentary Awake, A Dream From Standing Rock is a powerful visual record of the Standing Rock protests against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project. Led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s “Water Protectors”, this massive non-violent protest captured world attention through their peaceful acts of resistance.

Changa Revisited
60 mins
Peter Biella & Leonard Kamerling
Pastoral Society, Maasai, Cultural Change

Changa Revisited is the story of Tanzania Maasai elder, Toreto ole Koisenge and his family, seen from two points in time across a thirty-year divide. His life has drastically changed since anthropologist Peter Biella first visited his homestead more than thirty years ago. Then he had six hundred cattle. Now disease and displacement has reduced his herd to twenty.

The world of the Maasai pastoralist has grown smaller and smaller since the Tanzania government forced them to abandon their seasonal cattle migrations and live in permanent villages. The film draws on hundreds of photographs and audio recordings taken in 1980 by Peter Biella. These images, together with contemporary video footage, create a rare view across time, one that brings viewers into the changing emotional landscape of a Maasai family. Changa Revisited is about the deeply personal unfolding of a family’s journey through thirty years of displacement and turbulent change.

Chocolate of Peace
55 min
Gwen Burnyeat and Pablo Mejía Trujillo

Food, Resistance, South America

Chocolate of Peace depicts the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó’s experiences of resistance via a journey through their processes of organic chocolate production. From the seed to the product, the cacao is the narrative thread that takes us through the community’s stories of violence and resilience, and their fight to remain neutral in the face of the Colombian armed conflict. This film offers a panorama of hope, proof that despite great difficulties it is possible to sow peace through human and economic relationships. It invites us to rethink our relationship with food, to value the efforts of those who produce it, and to build bridges between the victims of the armed conflict and other sectors of global civil society.

Chonquelpe Tati Kutral (Let the Fire Never Die)
Denmark, Chile
30 min
Ambra Molinari
Project collaborators: The Huechecal Family and Cordova Family

Environment, South America, Relocation

The Indigenous community of El Barco, in Chile, has been relocated almost fifteen years ago after the construction of a huge hydro dam that flooded their ancestral lands. Chonquelpe Tati Kutral (Let the Fire Never Die) aims at exploring life on the Andes, involving the viewer in the struggles of the subjects who are dealing with the consequences of moving into a new environment. This product is part of a wider anthropological research project about the relation between dwelling and the cosmological indigenous belief in spirits.

Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story
92 min
Chris Boebel and Christine Walley

Industrial Cities, inequality, poverty

When the steel mills began closing in Southeast Chicago, residents could feel the American Dream slipping away. Decades later, the loss of the steel industry has left permanent scars. Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story tracks multiple generations of anthropologist Christine Walley’s family as they built lives in this industrial community, dealt with the fallout of the mills’ collapse, and faced the environmental devastation that remains. Shot over ten years, the film interweaves home movies, found footage, and first-person narration to offer an intimate look at one working class family’s experience with growing inequality in the United States.

Good White People
16 min
Jarrod Cann and Erick Stoll


Race, Gentrification, Urban Development

In the spring of 2001, the African-American community of Over-the-Rhine in downtown Cincinnati arose in protest after unarmed 19-year-old, Timothy Thomas, was killed by a white officer named Steven Roach. In the years following, in order to allure prospective residents, Over-the-Rhine was swept into a new narrative of safety and whiteness by the creation of an arts and brewery district for the creative class. While its”dangerous and inconvenient” Black history is revitalized from existence, property values rise with presence of police, tax abatements, and zoning amendments to serve and protect those properties.

Filmed during the peak of Over-the-Rhine’s urban renewal, Good White People follows the story of Reginald Stroud who runs a karate school and candy store in the storefronts beneath the apartment he and his family have called home for over 10 years. When a for-profit developer purchases the building they rent, Reginald and his family are told they must vacate the building and are given only 45 days to find a new home and relocate their businesses while their neighborhood makes way for start-up incubators, yoga studios, and luxury condominiums.

Grabbing Dignity
32 min
Felipe Roa Pilar
Alejandro González (Co-cinematographer) and Jorge Roa (Photography & Color Grading)


Housing, South America, Inequality

Gina lives in the most emblematic illegal settlement in recent Chilean history: La Toma de Peñalolén. After a lifetime of fighting for housing rights and their dignity, Gina and her community have finally been offered subsidised council housing with access to public services, and seemingly the opportunity to change their lives. However, the relocation is experienced as a dramatic loss of their sense of place and sense of belonging in Grabbing Dignity.

Highway Rest Stop (Des Jours Et Des Nuits Sur L’aire)
55 min
Isabelle Ingold & Vivianne Perelmuter

Travel, Journey, Nostalgia

Highway Rest Stop traces out the portrait of a motorway rest area located in the countryside in the north of France. This film looks like a dream, filled with the whispers thoughts and the lives of those who work here, as well as those who are just passing through. It is also a very concrete place, a perfect spot to observe today’s Europe, the violence carried by the free competition of a single market, the nostalgia carried by uprooted lives, and all the solitude engendered by our modern world.

Illusions In Stone
58 min
Brian Brazeal
Matthew Ritenour (Editor), with additional photography by: Lilian Haidar, Daniel Bruns

Material Culture, Precious Minerals

Illusions in Stone tells the global story of the emerald trade. It is a story of hope, faith, danger and desire. It is a place where you will meet righteous thieves, reckless illegal miners, and religious scholars in an underground business. They are all united by their fascination with the green stones.

Kahan Ka Raasta (At the Crossroads)
47 min
Savyasachi Anju Prabir & Bhasmang Joshi (Cinematography)

Sustainability, South Asia, Travel

Nestled in the Himalayan range of Uttarakhand in India, Kalap may soon have a motorable road. Till then the village continues to be 10 kilometres uphill on foot from the nearest road. At the Crossroads delves into the lives of the people of Kalap, who for generations have been negotiating their own path for sustainable living. With increasingly easy access to the world beyond, will there be a gradual shift in social and cultural values across generations?

Life Cycle
42 min
Malini Sur

Material Culture, South Asia

Life Cycle explores the place of the bicycle in the everyday lives of city dwellers in Kolkata. The film asks: Are Kolkata’s bicycles relics of a past to be hastily discarded or are they viable, if complicated cargo vehicles in India’s burgeoning cities? Winding through Kolkata’s roads the camera follows the city’s daily wage-workers, teachers and environmentalists and their changing relationships to cycling. What happens when new traffic regulations impede two-wheeled travellers from riding on Kolkata’s roads? How do vendors, couriers, newspaper sellers, and artists negotiate Kolkata’s roads congested with cars and other motorized transport? Who wins the battle for the road – the bicycle or the car?

The Maribor Uprisings
56 min
Maple Razsa & Milton Guillén
Slovenia & USA

Political Uncertainty, Activism

In the once prosperous industrial city of Maribor, Slovenia, anger over political corruption became unruly revolt. The Maribor Uprisings captures the dramatic frontline footage from a video activist collective that places the viewer in Maribor as crowds surround and ransack City Hall under a hailstorm of tear gas canisters. As a viewer, you must decide which cameras you will follow. Like those who joined the actual uprisings, you will be faced with the choice of joining non-violent protests or following rowdy crowds towards City Hall and greater conflict.

These dilemmas parallel those faced by protesters everywhere as they grapple with what it means to resist. What sparks outrage? How are participants swept up in—and changed by— confrontations with police? Could something like this happen in your city? What would you do?

Our Future Came from the School: The Story of the Yangjuan Primary School
35 min
Stevan Harrell and Tami Blumenfield
Chase Conrad (Director of Photography) and Givens Parr (Creative Director and Editor)

Education, Asia, Rural Communities

Our Future Came from the School: The Story of the Yangjuan Primary School is a documentary shares the story of graduates of China’s Yangjuan Primary School and shows the students’ journeys from mountain-village kids to big-city students and professionals. As their supporters prepare to visit the southwest China village for the Torch Festival, a festival celebrated each year by people from the Nuosu ethnic group, the supporters learn that the school has been suddenly closed by the government officials who oversee village schools. Current students have strong reactions to the school’s abrupt closing, including one sixth-grader who has her own ideas for how things in her village should be run. Will her vision take hold? Or will the school’s future unfold in a different way? The documentary ends with these questions.

Sent Away Boys
40 min
Harjant Gill

Masculinity, Migration, Agrarian Life, South Asia

What happens to families in the absence of sons? What happens to land in the absence of farmers? What happens to villages in the absence of men? Sent Away Boys weaves together stories of individual ambitions and family biographies from Punjab (India) to chronicle the gradual transformation of agrarian landscape and patriarchal traditions through ongoing transnational migration. As the promise of a secure future in agriculture grows increasingly uncertain for young men across the region, escaping India to join the low-wage labor in countries like Canada and USA becomes their sole aspiration. In rural Punjab, being a successful man now entails leaving their village, traveling abroad, and sending money home. Through interviews with men preparing to undertake often risky journeys and women awaiting the return of their sons, brothers and husbands, Sent Away Boys shows how young men’s decisions to emigrate implicate families and communities across North India.

Somos (We Are)
Elena Butti and Luis Fernando Achicanoy (Editor)
43 min

Youth, Peace and Reconciliation, participatory

In San Carlos (Antioquia), national icon of peace and reconciliation, journalists and researchers have always asked for the opinion of adults. But what do the younger generations have to say? Somos is an attempt to answer to this question. Realised by 24 adolescents and youths, this participatory documentary gives voice to a narrative that has, until now, gone untold. In telling their life stories, these youths shed light on the issues of domestic violence, drug addiction, school conflict, and social discrimination. They thus express their longing for a peace that goes beyond silencing the rifles. ‘Somos’ is the result of a continuous work of 8 months (April-November 2016) that were crucial for the political history of Colombia. While the politicians discussed the peace agreement with the FARC-EP, these young people learned to use cameras, ask questions and formulate answers, to voice their world views and hopes for the future. They deserve to be listened to.

Zawawa: the Sound of Sugar Cane in the Wind
50 min
Rupert Cox and Angus Carlyle
Kozo Hiramatsu (Co-Producer with Cox and Carlyle) and Atsushi Nishimura (Assistant Editor)
Japan & UK

Militarism, Sensory, Environment

It is a strange and bitter irony that the US naval bombardment which launched the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 was called the ‘typhoon of steel’, invoking the turbulent winds that annually buffet this small island. Okinawans sought shelter from the battle in natural features of the environment such as caves and within sugar cane fields, creating memories that reside in the sounds of these places today. Zawawa: the Sound of Sugar Cane in the Wind is the result of a ten-year collaboration between a landscape artist, an acoustic scientist and an anthropologist attempts to listen in on and make sense of these sounds through the stories of individuals and the recordings of these sounds. Their words, solidified as text and witness to the history of the US occupation of the island and expressed through the mixing of images and sounds of natural elements, military machinery and ritual practices convey the experience of many Okinawan lives, suspended between the American wars of the past, present and future.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.