WHAT’S THE STORY?

WHEN yet another unarmed teenager was shot dead by a white police officer in her US neighbourhood, single parent Brittany Ferrell knew she had to join the protests. She gave up her nursing training to do so, but felt she had no choice.

“Brittany could not stand by and watch others take up the Black Lives Matter struggle,” explains Tamara Van Strijthem, director of Take One Action, the UK’s leading social change film festival. “As a black queer woman, she needed to be part of the movement, to oppose police brutality and ensure the voice of the LGBTI community was represented.”

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Ferrell will lead a discussion following the screenings of Whose Streets?, a documentary about the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked by the killing of Michael Brown.

The film is part of a “fantastic” programme celebrating the 10th anniversary of the festival, which runs in Glasgow and Edinburgh this month, before heading to Aberdeen and Inverness in November.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

WHAT makes the festival unique, says Van Strijthem, is that audiences are given space to reflect on what they can do to effect change. The films may be hard-hitting but Take One Action is designed to inspire, not depress.

“We don’t want to leave people with a sense of helplessness or the feeling that nothing is going to change,” she says. “Yes, some of the realities our planet faces are tough, but we try to fight potential apathy by nurturing conversations and engagement, so that when people see stories that seem remote to their lives they can find tangible ways to take action locally, within their community.”

As well as hosting conversations after each screening, the festival also hosts events for changemakers and campaigners, to better resource them.

“Bringing people together through their hope and desire to make the world a better place is pretty unique for a film festival,” says Van Strijthem.

“We acknowledge that a lot of people who come are often already aware of the issues the films explore, but we want to deepen that understanding and make sure it doesn’t come at a cost of being able to challenge the systems that underpin inequality.”

ANY HIGHLIGHTS?

THE programme of new, inspiring cinema includes six UK and 11 Scottish premieres looking at the big issues of the last year.

The growing polarisation of political discourse in the post-Brexit and Trump era finds eerie echoes in Stranger In Paradise, which offers an unusual take on EU immigration policy. “It’s a deliberately provocative documentary, and I’m really impressed that Oxfam Scotland and Global Justice Now, two of our long-term partners, were up for working with us on this,” says Van Strijthem. “It’s a powerful starting point for conversations on how to change the narrative on migration set by too many UK newspapers and on how to make sure that policy here supports refugees and asylum seekers.”

The festival is also screening Boiling Point, a compelling snapshot of rising disenfranchisement and far-right extremism in Finland.

Meanwhile, heading up the Truth To Power programme strand is An Insignificant Man, chronicling the spectacular rise of Arvind Kejriwal, “the Bernie Sanders of India”, who – as the head of The Common Man’s Party – is battling political corruption and complacency.

After the screenings, Indra Adnan, of Alternative UK, and Robin McAlpine, of Common Weal, will lead a discussion on how grassroots movements are shaping the political arena.

WHAT ELSE IS ON?

THE impact of the Arab Spring is still being measured and this year’s festival presents a number of films examining the everyday lives of women in the Middle East and North Africa – as well as South Asia.

The War Show follows a Damascus radio host and her friends through the onset of the Syrian conflict and will be followed by a Syrian Supper Club celebrating the country’s hospitality and cuisine.

“This remarkable documentary is made up of intimate, personal footage, filmed just before the revolution and as violence erupted into full-blown conflict,” explains Van Strijthem. “It brings the reality of war on to a very personal level. I was really touched by that film when I saw it in the Netherlands so I’m pleased to bring it here to Scotland.”

The Danish director, Andreas Dalsgaard, will be joined in conversation by Gill Moreton, of Europe’s Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma, after the screening.

A Revolution in Four Seasons shows the parallel lives of two Tunisian women, a liberal blogger and an Islamist politician, as they seek to shape their country’s nascent democracy, while Girl Unbound profiles internationally celebrated Pakistani squash player Maria Toorpakai, whose rejection of oppressive gender norms earned her death threats from the Taliban in her home region of Waziristan.

Take One’s commitment to championing women’s empowerment is reflected in its programming: half of the films presented have been directed or co-directed by women.

IS THERE MORE?

WHILE Van Strijthem says she is impressed by all the films in the festival, she is particularly looking forward to Disturbing the Peace, a moving portrait of ex-IDF soldiers and PLO fighters coming together to advocate for a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“It brings us closer to an incredibly resilient group of people, whose desire to move away from a never-ending cycle of violence led them to overcome huge barriers. They reached out to people who are very much seen as the enemy within their respective communities, and sought ways of working together towards peace,” says Van Strijthem. “If you want to find inspiration in the world then watch this: there is so much humanity and inspiration to be found in their story.”

The film is presented in partnership with Unison and Christian Aid; director Stephen Apkon will be in attendance.

Another highlight will be the closing film, Free Lunch Society, which asks whether universal basic income (UBI) has the potential to revolutionise the world and eradicate poverty.

It is particularly topical as trials of UBI are being set up by the Scottish Government in Fife, Ayrshire and Glasgow. Journalist and campaigner Lesley Riddoch will lead the after-screening Q&A.

For more details go to https://www.takeoneaction.org.uk/festivals.