FREE SPEECH ZONE | Is Progressive Dissent Public Enemy #1?

Is free speech worth the constitutional paper it’s written on? After the September 26 FBI raids on peace activists’ homes in Minneapolis, Chicago and North Carolina, it appears to depend on who’s speaking and what they’re saying. The pretext for the raids was investigating “material aide to terrorists”, resulting in grand jury subpoenas and confiscation of computers, books, music CD s and from one home, a Martin Luther King poster. The targeted Minneapolis activists have openly protested US military policy since the 1980s. The FBI certainly knows they have nothing to do with terrorism. These activists simply have the audacity to challenge bi-partisan US invasions, occupations and support for dictatorships and human rights abusers. Dissent on the left has long been seen as ‘criminal behavior’. Continue Reading

Twin Cities celebrate 200 years of Mexican independence with new work by Mexican visual artists and composers

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spain, the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul is collaborating with Twin Cities arts organizations to making 2010 a year to re-imagine Mexico. VocalEssence presents a free concert on May 25th at the St. Mary’s Basilica, and Intermedia Arts hosts visual artists through May 28th. “When I first had the idea of a program of Mexican composers,” said Phillip Brunelle, artistic director of VocalEssence, “I thought, what do we know about Mexico’s music and culture? Continue Reading

MOVIES | Kelly Reichardt’s films, now showing at the Walker, capture the angst of 21st-century America

A filmmaker can perfectly pinpoint the essence of her time. Kelly Reichardt’s three features tell fresh stories that express the economic dislocation, social polarization, and emotional disconnection of 21st-century America. From May 5-14, the Walker Art Center screens Reichardt’s complete works (including short films) and hosts a dialogue with the director. Although it was made in 1994, Reichardt’s debut feature River of Grass (May 5, 7:30 p.m.) fits the media-saturated, emotionally displaced nature of our times, where the movies one watches shape one’s character as much as the family one comes from. Set in Reichardt’s native Dade County, Florida, the film evokes a faded film noir sensibility. Continue Reading

V-Day Minneapolis 2010: Violence against women is not just women’s problem

Even in the second decade of the 21st century, it’s risky, shocking, brave, and empowering for women to tell the truth about gender violence. V-Day was created by activist-playwright Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues. In just 12 years, the annual V-Day has spread from American college campuses to 120 countries worldwide, generating consciousness and $70 million for shelters and services for women and girls surviving gender violence. V-Day Minneapolis takes place April 15-18 at the Old Arizona Studios. “What’s unique about V-Day is that it has a global perspective with local ties,” said Kristin Strissel, an organizer of V-Day Minneapolis. Continue Reading

MOVIES | For the second year, the Walker presents Views From Iran

In the eyes of many Americans, Iran—infamously characterized by President George W. Bush as being a member of the “Axis of Evil”—has been reduced to one man (President Ahmedinejad) and a few caricatured images. For the second year, the Walker Art Center presents an alternative with its “Views From Iran” film series, April 9-30.  Since the 1920s, Iran has had a sophisticated film industry that has always included female filmmakers. Although the culture has become more conservative since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian filmmakers—sometimes in exile—continue to make extraordinary cinema. About Elly (April 9, 7:30 p.m.) explores the baroque complications of rigid social mores and the deception that goes on in their service. Half Iranian-style Jane Austen, half mystery, a group of middle-class mostly-married friends take a beach house for a long weekend. Continue Reading

MOVIES | At the Walker, Minnesota filmmakers are truly “Women With Vision”

The diversity of subject and style by the Minnesota filmmakers whose work is featured in the Walker Art Center’s Women With Vision Film Festival really impressed me. Many of these directors are breaking new ground in what documentaries can do and how they do it. Even when taking on the most painful subject matter—war, genocide, colonialism, and loss of land—you walk away from these films feeling human beings’ potential to solve even our greatest challenges.Blurring the lines between documentary and feature film, Barbara Weiner’s Ida’s Story (March 20, 1:30 p.m.) is an “immigrant journey” that completely enthralled me. With her siblings, orphaned eight-year-old Ida escapes pogroms (massacres of Jewish people) in Ukraine in the aftermath of 1918.Weiner observes that “when people find out you’re a filmmaker, they tell you they’ve got the movie you should make.” This time that old trope proved useful when Weiner met Ida, an acquaintance’s 90-year-old mother, for lunch. Continue Reading

MOVIES | From Runaways to pilgrims, the Walker showcases “Women With Vision”

The Walker Art Center’s 17th annual Women With Vision Film Festival, March 12-27, reveals that education and drama are not mutually exclusive. History resonates in family histories. Iconic symbols reveal political, religious and personal values. At this year’s festival, lines between factual and fiction film making seem to blur; often features having documentary-like elements and documentaries are as dramatic as fiction. “Filmmakers today give you an open-ended entry way of observing. Continue Reading

MOVIES | Mizna’s Arab Film Festival showcases humanity in all its contradictions

The annual Arab Film Festival hosted by Mizna, the Arab arts and literature organization, is one of the most important Twin Cities cultural events. The sixth festival—taking place March 11-14 at the Heights Theater—may well be the best ever, due in large measure to curator Mohanned Ghawanmeh’s deeply developed sensitivity. Ghawanmeh chose films, he says, “based on artistic quality, topical importance, and diversity.” Opening the festival, Garbage Dreams (March 11, 7 p.m.) is a compelling documentary that feels more like a feature. In Cairo, Egypt, we follow three Zabaleen young men, part of the Coptic Christian peasant minority, who have been the designated “trash pickers” for almost a century, with resourcefulness and pride in their labor. Continue Reading

THEATER | Teatro del Pueblo’s Political Theatre Festival again asks the tough questions—and waits for your answers

Teatro del Pueblo’s ninth annual Political Theatre Festival, which runs from February 25 through March 13, has the theme “Across the Divide.” An immigrant displaced in a new land considers a surgical change; would-be immigrants struggle for visa; Latino women face misconceptions about one another; a survivor of sex trafficking seeks justice; a multitude of characters live together on one block. Jerome and McKnight fellow Dominic Orlando, Teatro’s resident playwright, hits theatrical home runs for a fifth year. American Civil Liberties addresses the international trafficking of women into sexual slavery. “It’s easier to to ignore this issue, consider these women numbers,” observes Teatro del Pueblo artistic director Al Justiniano. Continue Reading