“There is a countervailing force, and that is hopelessness.” Such is the backdrop to the documentary “Dogs of Democracy.” But in the face of hopelessness and despair, enter Thrylos, Glykos, Fotis, Foutoula, Pericles, and local hero Loukanikos, canines who fearlessly march alongside people in the streets against the severity of Greek austerity measures. Those are the names of just some 3 million stray dogs throughout Greece who symbolize revolt and purity.
In some ways, the documentary is a powerfully humble frame to this year’s lineup for the Social Justice Film Festival (Nov. 16 – 21), as the stray dogs wander about like souls in the streets of the ancient birthplace of democracy. One character describes the dogs asking, “Why should we live like this?” In the public square of Athens, the narrator imagines the dogs’ expressions of bewilderment and hope, wondering how they reached such a desperate state.
Shooting from the knee-high point of view of the wandering dogs, first-time filmmaker Mary Zournazi set out with her camera to follow a handful of dogs and interview the people who voluntarily took on the role of caretakers. The film peers into the psychology of ethics and morality, a different take on the golden rule to love the stranger as one’s self. Perhaps we need to reverse that, Zournazi says, so that we might aspire to love ourselves the way a stranger should when we are suffering and at our most vulnerable.
“Dogs of Democracy” screens Nov. 20 at the UW Ethnic Cultural Theater along with a host of other features, including the documentary film, “And Then They Came for Us,” which shares the stories of survivors of Japanese internment.
This year’s Social Justice Film Festival, taking place in four different venues across the city, brings global, national and local issues together for connections and conversations. It is a powerfully dense six-day feature on the public interest issues of our time. The collection of films touches on the stories of democracy, Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Voices, re-entry, human rights and climate change.
It is a rare moment for Seattle — and the country for that matter — to come together and simply partake in civic engagement, to watch, listen and learn with filmmakers, thought leaders and creatives and, just as fellow neighbors, to reflect. These seemingly separate movements come together under the umbrella of the #Resistance. There is something for everyone, as the issues are so interrelated we cannot escape connecting with each other. If the #Resistance should stand for anything, it is to resist the erosion of values that define all that is good about humanity. Resist the hyperbole of cultural wars. Just as the stray dogs of Athens thrive, they are transient and described as loving because their existence relies on the kindness of strangers.
“On the Outs,” produced by Disability Rights Washington’s AVID Prison Project (Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities), brings viewers into the lives of Eldorado, Kara and Tyrone just before and after their release from prisons located in Washington. The three of them are inmates with different disabilities, each sharing their fears and hopes of what life will be like beyond bars. As they prepare to re-enter the communities they are assigned to — not communities they’ve chosen — you cannot help but share in their apprehension about the precarious future they face, with little to no funds, food insecurity, housing instability, uncertain health care and emotional vulnerability.
You worry with them: How will they adjust and avoid violating the requirements of their re-entry? At one point, as she is photographed for her ID, Kara is told to turn for the side-shot, and she breaks down from nerves exclaiming that she is so scared to violate the rules required of her when she is released. Throughout the days leading up to her release, she persistently asks about her medications.
“On the Outs” will be featured on Nov. 18 at the Northwest African American Museum, along with screenings of a host of other films about racial justice, exoneration and criminal justice reform.
Aurora Martin is the managing director of the Social Justice Film Festival.
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