For many people, justice is all about a cold and impersonal court system, with lawyers making long and complicated arguments or judges pronouncing sentences on criminals. However, global justice is different. Primarily, it’s about people and the stories of their lives.
Global justice is a film called Sweet Dreams, about women in a Rwandan town, trying to make sense of the genocidal violence that gripped their country only two decades ago. Now, both Hutus and Tutsis are in a drumming troupe that has taken on a new challenge: running the town’s first ice cream shop.
For some of their customers, going to the shop gives them their first-ever taste of ice cream. For the owners and staff of the shop, however, making the dessert is also about bringing a sense of peace and community to a place that was once ripped apart by extreme violence and mistrust.
Justice is also the film Inocente, about a 15-year-old homeless girl from the United States who, with the help of concerned adults, discovers a talent for art and finds that she has a way to get out of the poverty that has kept her family moving from one place to another for years.
It’s about Middle Eastern and African women going to India to learn about using solar power to bring reliable electricity to their homes and villages, in the film entitled Solar Mamas, which can also be screened on the film’s website.
Global justice is about giving people the chance to work for equality and security. Almost any topic that concerns people’s well-being is a potential subject for the Global Justice Film Festival, held every year on the first weekend of November.
This year’s festival on Nov. 7 and 8 featured films on the Canadian immigration process, mining operations in Guatemala, and Inuit families relocated to the far north in order to assure Canada’s sovereignty over the Arctic (Martha of the North). Taxes for multinational corporations, garbage washing up in Hawaii, and many other topics were also the subjects of some of the documentaries.
One of the most unusual films was Trash Dance, the story of a choreographer collaborating with sanitation workers in Austin, Texas, to plan a dance performance using the everyday tasks on the job to show the lives of people who pick up what other people throw away.
Through interviews and ride-alongs, the choreographer found a way to portray the beauty in even the dirtiest jobs. The final result of her work was memorable. After seeing the film, several of the viewers agreed that with its unique style and content, Trash Dance was one of the best films at the festival.
The two-day event began with two films, one short and the other longer, on Friday evening in Manitoba Hall at the University of Winnipeg. On Saturday, films began at 10 a.m. and continued on until 6:15 p.m. in Manitoba Hall and Lockhart Hall, with only short breaks for people to get from one venue to another or to rest and eat. Participants even had the chance to see films during the lunch break if they wished.
Sitting at hard university desks all day can be difficult for people who are not used to that kind of thing. However, despite their discomfort and enduring occasional technical problems with the films, participants generally seemed to be enthusiastic.
People can often feel helpless in the face of massive injustice around the world, and attending a film festival will not solve the problems of the poor and oppressed. However, if people took anything away from the 2014 Global Justice Film Festival, it was that ordinary people can make a difference.