"Survival, Strength, Sisterhood", a short film.
April 1, 2011 11:48 PM   Subscribe

Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside (Vimeo link; possibly triggering) is a 2011 short film by Alejandro Zuluaga and Harsha Walia, based on a concept by the Downtown Eastside Power of Women Group (TRT 32:00).

From the filmmakers' Vimeo page, a description of the film, available to be shared under Creative Commons license:
"Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside" [documents the 20-year history of the annual Women's Memorial March] for missing and murdered women in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. By focusing on the voices of women who live, love, and work in the Downtown Eastside this film debunks the sensationalism surrounding a neighbourhood deeply misunderstood, and celebrates the complex and diverse realities of women organizing for justice."
posted by simulacra (8 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Jeez, I had no idea that Canada had problems with violence! But I'm glad they refuse to keep quiet about it as if it were normal, maybe if cities in America could take a page from their book violence, and particularly violence against women, wouldn't be so much the norm.
posted by Mooseli at 12:03 AM on April 2, 2011

Jeez, I had no idea that Canada had problems with violence!

I really hope you're being sarcastic, but I suspect not. I think a lot of people think Canada is a magical socialist wonderland, but it's got the same problems as the rest of the world. Violence against women is a worldwide issue that very few cultures are free from.
posted by i feel possessed at 5:03 AM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Jeez, I had no idea that Canada had problems with violence!

That Eastside neighborhood is pretty eye-opening -- intense poverty and violence and drug use and more is crammed into just a few blocks, right next to the business district, and on a major commute route. So it's visible, yet separated from the rest of the city.

But what the film is talking about is less the geographic concentration of violence in that neighborhood, and more the cultural concentration of violence on the bodies of women, especially indigenous women. And that's not just a Canadian issue -- there was a major report that came out fairly recently (linked in this FPP) about the astoundingly high rates of sexual violence affecting Native American women.

The video is a bit slow paced, but very good (and at times, very sad). It reminded me of some of the documentaries I have seen about the killings in Juárez and the organizing that is done in response.
posted by Forktine at 7:29 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was talking with a friend of mine who just finished an omnibus on Canadian serial killers, and he pointed out that in Toronto, the highest body count of a serial killer was 4 people before they caught him, while all the really high body counts are out west. I asked him why this was, and his response was "Because you can go out there and kill Indians and the cops don't give a shit."
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:42 AM on April 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

The key takeaway here is that the Downtown Eastside functions in Vancouver discourse as a compartment where violence against women occurs, something we can all glance at and say "oh isn't that terrible" and wash our hands of. Which obviously far from the truth. We obsessively talk about extreme examples like Pickton and render invisible the daily ones. Pickton was a symptom of a pervasive and systemic cultural misogyny (and racism, which intersects horribly here) which we repeatedly fail to confront.

The reality of the Pickton case has been totally whitewashed, the explicitly intentional coverup displaced by excuses of police incompetence. Many families of the victims were reporting them missing for years and were not even allowed to file formal reports. The real story is not the man himself but the institutions which not only permit but cultivate monsters such as him.

"Because you can go out there and kill Indians and the cops don't give a shit."

Hell, a hundred years ago they'd have given you a medal.
posted by mek at 12:54 PM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Beyond just Pickton, there's the "Highway of Tears", where at least 43 women have disappeared or been killed, with the RCMP investigating about 20% or so of the cases, and then only after years of pressure to do so.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:03 PM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mooseli, the DTES isn't "Canada" and for that matter, Vancouver isn't "Canada." It sure as hell isn't Western Canada. Go to any other Western city- Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, even Thunder Bay- and you see Natives everywhere, including "normal" friends and colleagues as well as huge numbers of prostitutes, bottle pickers, panhandlers, passed-out crackheads in your driveway... there is no segregation between native and non-native inhabitants and we (here in Calgary for example) see the shocking impact of decades of abuses on our city streets from end to end of the city. In Vancouver, I see nothing but advantaged white kids panhandling at every fashionable part of the city- in two one-week visits this past year I did not see a single Native face, never mind one that might remind locals of their penury and the level of injustice they face in BC, but for ONE PART OF TOWN: The DTES. That's where Natives in Vancouver are sequestered, and it's not just the VP or the RCMP who don't give a shit about them. Nobody in Vancouver gave a rat's ass about the Pig Farm; in fact I saw a realtor EXTOLLING it for putting the nice suburban community of Coquitlam "on the map."

We don't have massive, shameful illusions about the nature, and plight, of Native life in the rest of Western Canada. Just Vancouver.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:19 AM on April 3, 2011

Here is the subtitled version: http://universalsubtitles.org/en/videos/FvKsv9gpQHej/info/
posted by simulacra at 2:04 PM on April 3, 2011

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