Review: Asote’s Ark

Asote’s Ark is a beautiful and haunting story of the small island of Kiribati. It is a story of change and resistance to change. The island is changing, the weather is changing, and the people sit in the clear presence of their own fragility. The film takes us on a journey that weaves together the lives of islanders with the heads of state whose empty declarations echo in the sound of the waves slowly taking over people’s lives.

This is a film that exposes perhaps more than it intends as it follows the political and economic history of this small island nation, and the quest of its president for justice and relief. Once a colony providing phosphate, they were granted nationhood when the extraction stopped. Before, they were fishers and families, but there is little talk of before. And now, they are the victims of climate injustice. Asote is the president of this small island and the film follows his travels in search of answers, in search of resilience. and in search of financing.

Set at the high water mark…

Review: I See Red People

Maybe learning about the past is like learning to drive. Although the RMV gives you a handbook of applicable laws and procedures, much that you need to know only comes as you absorb tacit rules of the road: in Boston, you’d know turn left just before the light turns green, but elsewhere that might not be a good idea. When one confronts the past, how does one know when to go forward and when to yield? Who gets to set the rules, particularly when new technologies and systems come into play?

In Bojina Panayotova’s I See Red People (Je vois rouge), the film maker, who grew up in France, returns to Bulgaria where she witnesses mass demonstrations against remnants of the previous communist regime. She discovers that she can request to see her family’s secret police dossier. Overtaken by curiosity, Panayotova begins to navigate the transitional justice, seeking out the truth of her parents’ former lives in communist Bulgaria. Her parents, particularly her father, disagree. She discovers, perhaps more than she would wish, about how to discover historical facts. Thirty…

The “American Dream” in Melanesia: Island Soldier

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to be an American … soldier”

The absent protagonist of Island Soldier, Sappuro “Sapp” Nena, replied to this question while in uniform, riding an armored personnel carrier in Afghanistan. He died in action before he could return home. Although enlisted in the U.S. Army, he was not an American citizen. Perhaps his answer, “I want to be an American … soldier” was a joke among the tight group of platoon mates filming each other as they traversed dangerous territory. Yet it seems to capture the ambivalence veterans and their families feel in Kosrae, part of the Federated States of Micronesia, former U.S. colony and U.S. military “recruiters’ paradise.” Through a close look at families in Kosrae as they mourn, wait, or send off young men, Island Soldier causes us to ask whether “sovereignty” can account for the complicated reality of Micronesia and other post-colonial nations.

In its attention to everyday practices of getting by in Kosrae, the film shows us a mobile population who…