Independent Lens


Updated Tue, Apr 2, 2013 2:07 pm

Wednesday, April 10
"The House I Live In"/"As I Am"

For the past 40 years, the war on drugs has resulted in more than 45 million arrests, $1 trillion dollars in government spending, and America’s role as the world’s largest jailer. Yet for all that, drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available than ever. Filmed in more than twenty states, The House I Live In captures heart-wrenching stories of those on the front lines — from the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge — and offers a penetrating look at the profound human rights implications of America’s longest war.

The film recognizes drug abuse as a matter of public health, and investigates the tragic errors and shortcomings that have resulted from framing it as an issue for law enforcement. It also examines how political and financial corruption has fueled the war on drugs, despite persistent evidence of its moral, economic, and practical failures. The drug war in America has helped establish the largest prison-industrial system in the world, contributing to the incarceration of 2.3 million men and women and is responsible for untold collateral damage to the lives of countless individuals and families, with a particularly destructive impact on black America.

“It’d be one thing if it was draconian and it worked. But it’s draconian and it doesn’t work. It just leads to more,” says David Simon, creator of the HBO series, The Wire.

Instead of questioning a campaign of such epic cost and failure, those in public office generally advocate for harsher penalties for drug offenses, lest they be perceived as soft on crime. Thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing, a small offense can put a nonviolent offender behind bars for decades — or even life. Many say these prisoners are paying for fear instead of paying for their crime.

“If you stand in a federal court, you’re watching poor and uneducated people being fed into a machine like meat to make sausage. It’s just bang, bang, bang, bang. Next!” says journalist Charles Bowden.

But there’s a growing recognition among those on all sides that the war on drugs is a failure. At a time of heightened fiscal instability, the drug war is also seen as economically unsustainable. Beyond its human cost at home, the unprecedented violence in Mexico provides a daily reminder of the war’s immense impact abroad, and America has at last begun to take the first meaningful steps toward reform. At this pivotal moment, the film promotes public awareness of the problem while encouraging new and innovative pathways to domestic drug policy reform.

Wednesday, April 17
"Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines"

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines traces the fascinating birth, evolution, and legacy of Wonder Woman, and introduces audiences to a dynamic group of fictional and real-life superheroines fighting for positive role models for girls, both on screen and off.

Female superheroes, warrior princesses, and other icons of women's empowerment in pop culture owe their existence to Wonder Woman — the unlikely brainchild of a Harvard-trained pop psychologist. From Wonder Woman’s original, radical World War II presence, to her uninspiring 1960s incarnation as a fashion boutique owner, to her dramatic resurrection by feminist Gloria Steinem and the women of Ms. Magazine, Wonder Woman’s legacy continues today.

Wonder Women! explores the nation’s long-term love affair with comic book superheroes and raises questions about the possibilities and contradictions of heroines within the genre. The film goes behind the scenes with Lynda Carter, Lindsay Wagner, Gloria Steinem, Kathleen Hanna, comic writers and artists, and others who offer an enlightening and entertaining counterpoint to the male-dominated superhero genre.

Exploring how our highly visual culture places more emphasis on the appearance of girls and women rather than on their deeds, Wonder Women! urges women to claim the action genre — and media in general — as their own, if they want to change how they are represented.

Wonder Women! harnesses the voices of literary critics, women writers, classicists, philosophers, impersonators, collectors, feminists and fanatics to explore the notions of “heroism” and “power.”

Wednesday, April 24
"The Island President"

Jon Shenk’s The Island President tells the story of former president Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, a man confronting a problem greater than any other world leader has ever faced—the survival of his country and everyone in it. After bringing democracy to the Maldives after thirty years of despotic rule, Nasheed is now faced with an even greater challenge: As one of the most low-lying countries in the world, a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge the 1200 islands of the Maldives enough to make them uninhabitable.

The Island President captures Nasheed’s first year of office, culminating in his trip to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, where the film provides a rare glimpse of the political horse-trading that goes on at such a top-level global assembly. Nasheed is unusually candid about revealing his strategies —leveraging the Maldives’ underdog position as a tiny country, harnessing the power of media, and overcoming deadlocks through an appeal to unity with other developing nations. When hope fades for a written accord to be signed, Nasheed makes a stirring speech, which salvages an agreement. Despite the modest size of his country, Mohamed Nasheed has become one of the leading international voices for urgent action on climate change.

In February 2012, the military and police ousted Mohamed Nasheed as leader of the Maldives. Since the power shake-up that put President Mohammed Waheed Hassan and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) in control, Nasheed has led protests and begun campaigning for an election scheduled later in 2013. However, the current government has other plans. They’ve accused Nasheed of illegally arresting a judge during his time in office, and if Nasheed is convicted, he will be ineligible to run. So far, Nasheed refused to appear at his trial. He was arrested briefly for defying the court order, but returned to the campaign trail in the southeastern Meemu Atoll. But in March 2013, a court in the Maldives banned Nasheed from traveling abroad and he was subsequently arrested and imprisoned.
 

Tags: