THE WHY launches online Quarantine Film Club

May 5, 2020

 
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By 
Daiana Contini

While some countries are slowly easing their way out of strict lockdowns, others are still going through the wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Regardless of this, it seems like we will be spending more time in our homes than we have ever done before, as large gatherings and events remain canceled or postponed for the months to come.

Because of this, here at THE WHY we decided to make your social distancing a bit less distant, by allowing you to travel through some fascinating and, at times provocative, stories from all corners of our world. For the next 20 days, you will be able to access 10 of our most successful documentaries on our Youtube Channel.

Through our Quarantine Film Club we want to honor our mission of providing free access to reliable information to everyone, especially in times of crisis. By securing access to informative documentary films, we want to encourage global critical debate on pressing global issues. To do this, we have divided our 10 films in 4 themes that are being addressed a lot during this pandemic crisis and 1 additional theme to spark conversations on more unconventional but significant topics.

Watch the films here until the 25th of May, or scroll down to check the synopsis of the documentaries:


GETTING OUT OF POVERTY

In the past few weeks we have often heard the phrase “this virus does not know race, class, gender or borders” and while this is partly true, we are slowly realising that the ones who are struggling and will struggle the most to recover from this global crisis are the poor, the marginalized, and often women rather than men. The following two stories are stories of poverty, but they are also stories of women who fight, for education, empowerment, justice and freedom.


  • SOLAR MAMAS

Will an education in solar engineering prove to be a route out of poverty for women in Jordan?

Rafea is the second wife of a Bedouin husband. She is selected to attend the Barefoot College in India that takes uneducated middle-aged women from poor communities and trains them to become solar engineers. The college's 6-month programme brings together women from all over the world. Learning about electrical components and soldering without being able to read, write or understand English is the easy part. Witness Rafea's heroic efforts to pull herself and her family out of poverty.


  • THE SECRET SLAVES OF THE MIDDLE EAST

Mary Joy Dao-Ay is a Filipino maid who used to be a domestic worker in Lebanon. She left her 3 children in the Philippines, planning to pay for their education by earning a higher salary working in the Middle East. Instead, she was forced to flee for her own safety, and got stuck in Lebanon seeking refuge at a shelter. THE SECRET SLAVES OF THE MIDDLE EAST is the story of Mary Joys’ desperate struggle for justice, in a country with no labour laws protecting foreign domestic workers, and where the special Arab Kafala System renders it impossible for an unskilled worker to leave the country or change their employer. It is the story of how poverty leads unprivileged women from developing countries to be deceived and trafficked into slavery.


BUILDING DEMOCRACY

The coronavirus has highlighted many of the shortcomings of our political and social institutions. It has brought up once again the topics of transparency and censorship, of trust among citizens, and between citizens and governments, and it has questioned the role of the grassroots in building and mobilizing networks of resilience. The films in this category will give you some food for thought through the story of the 2005 Egyptian presidential election and of an unusual classroom experiment in an elementary school of Wuhan, China.


  • EGYPT: WE ARE WATCHING YOU

What role do ordinary citizens play in shaping and securing their democracy? This is a question that the film raises and that is more relevant than ever now that we are facing a global health crisis that challenges our institutions. Grassroots movements have proved effective in a number of crises around the world as they form the fabric of truly democratic societies. EGYPT: WE ARE WATCHING YOU provides us with the story of three women who, unable to sit by while Egypt is on the brink of drastic change, start a grassroots movement with the aim of educating, empowering and raising awareness among citizens regarding the meaning of democracy and its fundamental pillars. They name their campaign Shayfeen.com, which means “we are watching you.”


  • PLEASE VOTE FOR ME

Covid-19 has sparked some discussions on the importance of well-functioning democracies, more specifically on the issues that lack of transparency and censorship in the People’s Republic of China may have caused on the global health crisis. PLEASE VOTE FOR ME helps in gaining a critical perspective on this by examining the challenges to the implementation and practice of democratization, not only in China, but around the world. The film follows a mini-experiment in democracy with the first ever elections for class monitor in a 3rd grade class in Wuhan, in central China. This film offers an amusing look at the democratic voting process, through the lens of three 8-year olds as they compete for the coveted position of class monitor, abetted and egged on by teachers and doting parents. In China, ‘elections’ only take place within the Communist Party, this one-party rule thereby excluding the possibility of democratic choice. As the Director Weijun Chen writes; “As a Chinese citizen, democracy remains a deep and heartfelt longing”.


FACING CRISES

What causes a crisis? How long does it last? And how can the world overcome one? Unsurprisingly, the answers are not fixed as they depend on many things. But if there is one thing that all crises have in common, that is hope. Hope is what makes humans innovative, daring and adaptable, and what allowed us to face many crises before. The stories we selected for this category present two very different kinds of crisis, with very different answers to the ones we posed above. One is a bit more familiar, while the other is unconventional and at times invisible, even though it has started decades ago.


  • DETROPIA

Experts agree that the current health emergency may bring our world into a global economic recession just like the crisis of 2008, or even worse. Times of crisis are challenging and put the livelihoods of many at stake. On the other hand, it is during difficult times that humans tend to be the most innovative and daring. This is one of the key takeaways from DETROPIA, an intimate look at the city of Detroit, America’s first major post-industrial city, as it struggles to deal with the consequences of a broken economic system. Is the midwestern iconic city actually a canary in the American coal mine? DETROPIA is a cinematic tapestry of a city and its people who refuse to leave the building, even as the flames are rising, a portrait of strength and hope.


  • THE VASECTOMIST

Dr Doug Stein is an urologist from a small town in Florida. THE VASECTOMIST follows his controversial mission of saving the planet by “spreading the gospel of vasectomy”. It is a journey through difficult and divisive issues, crossing cultural, religious and political taboos. Through this quixotic character and his highly personal encounters with men as they exit the gene pool, the film provokes a new conversation about over-population, over-consumption and the planet’s environmental tipping point. The topic of over-population is a challenging and controversial one by definition, but it is important to have this conversation as we enter an environmental crisis of unseen proportions.


WORLD DISPARITIES

The current global pandemic is also exposing with unsettling precision one of the greatest issues of our time: growing inequality. When money allows you to get a Covid-19 test faster than the ones who really need it, we have a problem. When some have thousands of square meters of space to lock themselves in, while others can only call the street their home, we have a problem. When a minority of us can stay at home and still receive a salary, while others risk losing their jobs or their lives, we have a problem. The stories below address some of these issues from the point of view of a declining American Dream, and the rising exploitation of African natural resources.


  • PARK AVENUE

How much inequality is too much? We may be asking ourselves this question a bit more often as the time we are living is showing us with greater clarity and tangibility, the forms of inequality that surround us. Some are having a big house to lock themselves in, others a mere 2-rooms shared apartment, while some do not have a place to call home at all. The film PARK AVENUE proves still relevant in its depiction of the declining American Dream where 740 Park Avenue in New York City hosts some of the wealthiest Americans. Just across the Harlem River, 10 minutes north, on the other side of Park Avenue in South Bronx, more than half of the population needs food stamps and children are 20 times more likely to be killed. How can we overcome crises when inequality is hindering the resilience of our societies?


  • STEALING AFRICA

Rüschlikon is a village in Switzerland with a very low tax rate and very wealthy residents. But it receives more tax revenue than it can use. This is largely thanks to one resident - Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore, whose copper mines in Zambia are not generating a large bounty tax revenue for the Zambians. Zambia has the 3rd largest copper reserves in the world, but 60% of the population live on less than $1 a day and 80% are unemployed. Based on original research into public documents, STEALING AFRICA is an investigative story of global trade and political corruption where money and natural resources only flow one way, and in the meantime poverty becomes harder to escape.


UNCONVENTIONAL STORIES

Even at times like this, we believe it is important to give some attention to the unusual stories that ask less traveled questions, as that encourages us to open up our minds and understand each other better. The two films we included here focus on the meaning of religion and spirituality in the modern world, and the ethics of big game hunting.


  • KUMARE

Is there something real behind spirituality or is it a mere illusion that we create? This is what Vikram Gandhi, an American filmmaker from New Jersey, wants to find out by conducting an experiment. He poses as a guru and attracts a number of devotees, but unexpectedly finds that his followers are receiving genuine benefits from his deception. KUMARE questions the meaning of religion and spirituality through the unconventional story of a supposedly enlightened Indian guru who has come to Arizona to spread his teachings and build a following. After three months in Phoenix, Kumaré has found a group of devoted students who embrace him as a true spiritual teacher. At the height of his popularity, Guru Kumaré must reveal his true identity to his disciples and unveil his greatest teaching of all: he is not real.


  • THE END OF THE GAME

A committed vegan, David follows 73-year-old colonial relic Guy Wallace to South Africa as he fulfils a lifelong ambition to bag a cape buffalo. It’s Guy’s last chance to relive his glory days and finally lay down his guns. The oddball relationship between David and Guy is the central drive of the film as the director explores the ethics of big game hunting and questions his own animal rights stance when lured in by the thrill of the hunt. THE END OF THE GAME is a compelling character study of a bizarre eccentric undertaking his last big game hunt in Africa.


We hope that these films will inform you, provoke you and inspire you as much as they did for us. If there is a WHY film that you’d like to watch, let us know at info@thewhy.dk and we might include it in our FILM OF THE MONTH monthly release.

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