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by Cynthia Fuchs

17 Nov 2011


When Jessie Littledoe enrolled in MIT’s linguistics program, she was hoping to recover, or at least trace, the origins of her people’s lost language, Wampanoag. Here she met professor Ken Hale, a white man who turned out to be as invested in her aim as she was. Littledoe’s story forms the center of We Still Live Here (Âs Nutayuneân), the fascinating documentary premiering on Independent Lens 17 November. It’s a center from which multiple other stories emerge, traversing borders of time and place, communities and individuals.

The film traces the initial encounters between the Wampanoag tribes (which currently number five) and white settlers, in the area that would become Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, during the early 1600s. As Jessie and other Wampanoag individuals come together to learn, speak, and keep the language, they forge a new sense of community and also show how others can benefit from such recovery. For it’s not only the Wampanoag who learn about themselves in this ongoing process. Descendents of white settlers can also rediscover their history, as it is entwined with others, as all stories, communities, and histories are connected.

See PopMattersreview.

by Cynthia Fuchs

16 Nov 2011


Pray The Devil Back to Hell  traces the Women’s Peace Initiative’s evolution, recounted by founders and active members. These include Leymah Gbowee, who helps to bring together women of diverse backgrounds and faiths, whose stories are conveyed here in thoughtful interviews and sometimes harrowing footage drawn from the many years of Liberia’s civil war. In 1989, Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) assassinated Liberian dictator Samuel Doe and took over the government; warring factions varied in name and number. By 2002, the sides were using similar tactics—a group of warlords who called themselves LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) and Taylor’s private army (ironically titled “The Anti-Terrorist Unit”) were using similar tactics to compel citizens into compliance: kidnapping children to drug and deploy as soldiers, looting villages, raping women, and marauding over the countryside, as lawless and brutal as their victims were quietly resilient. Gbowee says her inspiration came in a dream: “Someone was actually telling me to get the women of the church together,” she remembers, “to pray for peace.” When she did, more and more women began coming to meetings, including Asatu Bah Kenneth, Assistant Director of the Liberian National Police. Thrilled by the women’s energy and dedication, she spoke passionately, and identified herself upfront as “the only Muslim in the church,” and was immediately accepted (“They said ‘Oh hallelujah,’ they were so happy that I was there”). This would be a coalition of women, all with one goal, peace.

by Steve Jansen

15 Nov 2011


Sometimes you hear something new, fresh, and it reminds you of why music is, as the philosopher Eric Olson once said, “The sound of life”. “Champion Sound” by Crystal Fighters did that for me today.

Imagine Stereo MCs covering Fleetwood Mac via Empire of the Sun—those are the touchstones. It’s odd, but still within stroking-distance of convention; there’s some bizarre sunshine in there (that’ll be the Fleetwood Mac, or if you prefer, Empire of the Sun) and it’s the kind of record you never want to end. It takes you places and sends you leapfrogging up and down your memories, remembering all sorts of luscious occasions – usually to do with love and summer and girls (or boys).

by Cynthia Fuchs

15 Nov 2011


“I’m not scared to face my creator,” says Paco Larrañaga. “I have a big space there, I’m sure.” Here on earth, though, he’s less certain. Interviewed in the New Bilibid Prison in the Philippines, Larrañaga wears an orange jumpsuit and peers awkwardly into the video camera’s wide lens. “It’s just so unfair, getting that lethal injection without me giving a fight,” he says. “I was not given a fair fight. I was not given a chance to defend myself.” Give Up Tomorrow—which screens 15 November at Stranger Than Fiction, followed by a Q&A with director Michael Collins and producer Marty Syjuco—begins partway through Larrañaga’s ordeal, then cuts back in time, as the filmmakers interview not only him and his family members, but also police officers and other officials who brought the case. When plainclothes policemen came to his door at school, he was afraid they were criminals come to kidnap him, his sister Mimi remembers: the scene is illustrated by a set of ominous animated silhouettes, setting up the surreal events to follow.

by Cynthia Fuchs

15 Nov 2011


When Shell Oil decided to run a pipeline through Rossport, in northwest County Mayo, Ireland, the company did its best to convince residents the project would be in their interest. The company tried the usual sorts of tactics, cajoling, bribing, pitting neighbor against neighbor, but the community—even when they argued with one another—came to understand themselves as a force to be reckoned with, one the American corporation could not take for granted. The process of such self-understanding is at once gradual and vivid, tracked in Rísteard Ó Domhnaill’s remarkable documentary, The Pipe. Filmed over four years and available from FilmBuff beginning 15 November, the film follows the conflict and reveals the complex reactions of and interactions within the community. One longtime resident, Monica Müller, describes the encounter with Shell this way: “Rude people that don’t care tell you go away, go out… They want to build a pipeline to get from A to B.” As she sees it, “The landscape doesn’t mean anything to them. Otherwise, they would find a route that would make more sense.”

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