What’s up, KDocs?

A sneak peek at three documentaries featured in KPU’s upcoming festival

KDOCS is KPU’s annual documentary festival, wherein a variety of documentary films are screened in order to engage with “various and varied communities” through dialogue and critical thinking.

Ashley Powell / The Runner

Ivory Tower

By Awais Mushtaq, contributor

Ivory Tower, one of the documentaries to be featured at KDOCS, exposes the true cost of a university education—namely, the overwhelming, and sometimes unconquerable, burden of student debt.

One of the keynote speakers at the KDOCS Festival on Feb. 20 will be Kathy Corrigan, who will use her time to address the value of a university education and the current problems that exist with the post-secondary education system of British Columbia.

As the official opposition spokesperson for advanced education, Corrigan’s interest to participate in the festival lies in what had pleased her about the documentary.

“I think a lot of the themes [in Ivory Tower] are certainly relevant in British Columbia,” she says. “I can’t speak to the student debt crisis in the United States, which was the focus of the documentary, but I do know in Canada that even though tuitions are not as high as they are in the U.S., students in BC still have the highest debt load of any province in Canada.”

As Corrigan explains, one of BC’s most fundamental problems in post-secondary education is that is has been “severely underfunded.” In fact, according to her, the BC Ministry of Education has not only had its funding frozen, but has also faced reductions in funding, which has put “tremendous pressure on places like Kwantlen and other institutions around the province.”

This situation has led universities to “find other ways of revenue, and to think of everything in terms of funding rather that providing the best advanced education” says Corrigan. For her, a “corporate model” of education, where universities act more like businesses than avenues of learning, is a natural result of schools “increasingly being dominated, or at least influenced, by managers as opposed to educators.”

Accessibility is another a concern to Corrigan. She criticizes the move by the provincial government “to stop the free provision of adult basic education and English language courses at postsecondary institutions” as shortsighted, and ultimately harmful to non-English speakers.

In Corrigan’s words, these issues have caused the province to lose sight “of the wider goal of post-secondary education.” Without action, it is possible the scenario depicted in the documentary Ivory Tower will be as true for Canada as it is for our southern neighbours.

Fractured Land

By Awais Mushtaq, contributor

“My life is basically in conflict between trying to live a traditional lifestyle on the land and being compelled to engage with modernity,” says Caleb Behn, star and subject of another upcoming KDOCS feature, Fractured Land.

Behn, a non-practicing lawyer currently working for his people in Northeastern BC, allowed filmmakers Damien Gillis and Fiona Rayher to follow him over the course of five years as he gained the “tools to protect [his land] from contemporary threats.”

The resulting film is about Behn’s conflicting obligations to both participate in his culture and to protect it as he journeys through law school to fight fracking on Native lands.

Originally from the Northeastern British Columbia portion of Treaty No. 8, and now the Executive Director of Keepers of the Water movement, Behn’s involvement in the film began early on during his education as a lawyer when Fillis and Rayher found him in law school and followed him for five years into practice.

As Behn recalls, life before law school and the documentary was fairly remote. “After my undergraduate degree I went straight home and just worked for my people,” he says. “But my life was one of constant battle with industry and government, and as I got really tired of it I decided to get better tools, which took me to law school.”

Now Behn’s work often leads him into 60-hour work weeks for the purposes of protecting the land. This, despite the fact that, according to Behn, he’d much rather be spending time with his grandmother in the “bush.”

“I live in the sacrifice zone, so my life [used to be] a lot more land-based,” he says. “But the more educated I get the less time I have to be on the land, which is really sad—but that’s the price you have to pay.”

Despite the hardships of being filmed over the course of five years, an experience which Behn says “almost killed” him, he agreed to participate in the documentary because he believes it was “a story that had to be told, because people in the south don’t know what it’s like,” in his home.

“Most people think of these issues as left versus right, but they’re way more complicated and that truth is illustrated by the world that I live in,” says Behn.

The Mask You Live In

By Aida Garcia, contributor

The old concept of what “being a man” looks like, or what masculinity should mean, is the issue explored in KDOCS documentary The Mask You Live In. The film seeks to explain why raising young men, under our current concept of masculinity, should be seen as troubling for everybody.

Gender and gender roles are a tricky subject to discuss—first of all people have to agree that something is wrong and change is needed for the better.

“I want to encourage people of all genders to invest time and energy into thinking about how society has an effect on them,” says David Hatfield, a practitioner who works with men of all ages and is featured in the film. “Men, for example, are pressured to hide our true emotions and our uncertainties. That ‘hiding’ can become so natural, and talking about it becomes harder the older a guy gets.”

According to Hatfield, we live in a society that still struggles to implement change, especially when that change conflicts with long-held traditions like gender. “Western society, from a psychological and behavioral perspective, would be an adolescent if it was a person,” he says. “Our ideas of gender, appearance, and age are still pretty rigid. We want to fit in and at the same time develop our own sense of identity.”

“We have a lot of intelligence and awareness, yet we still have a need for labelling behaviors quickly. Our culture contributes to gender identity roles and that makes it hard to stay fluid and not be afraid of change,” says Hatfield.

Projects such as The Mask You Live In encourage people of different age groups, cultures, and beliefs to start a conversation regarding the issues they face in their everyday lives. “I see men struggle with vulnerability,” continues Hatfield. “I see it a lot and I don’t think the way society tells them to deal with it should be done that way.”

“I want men to know that feeling vulnerable is not a feminine trait . . . I want everyone to see that there’s a real hunger for places where men can be honest and open about their feelings.”

We need to make sure that just like we all have our own insecurities and issues, we are not alone in our quests towards self-improvement. We need to make sure that everyone has a place where they can come in and let their concerns out; otherwise, we may never know how much certain labels, behaviors or expectations affect the people in our communities.

KDOCS will take place on Feb. 19 and 20. More information is available here.

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