Saturday, January 21, 2012

Crossing the American Crises Televised on Cuban TV

On January 20, Crossing the American Crises was televised by Cuba's Televisión Cubana, during the Mesa Redonda TV program on Cubavisión. A short summary from the Mesa Redonda website is below.

El día 20 de Enero, el documental, Cruzando las crisis norteamericanas fue transmitido en Cuba por Televisión Cubana. Lo siguiente es un resumen pequeño de la pagina Web de la programa Mesa Redonda.

"La Mesa Redonda transmitirá hoy, desde las 6:30 pm por el canal Cubavisión el documental 'Cruzando las crisis norteamericanas', de Michael Fox y Silvia Leindecker, un recorrido por casi 40 de los 50 estados de la Unión, para radiografiar el caos que ha generado la profundización de la desigualdad en la sociedad norteamericana; una argumentada exposición de las razones que animan las crecientes protestas del llamado '99 por ciento' de la población de ese país."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Protests—November 2011 Slideshow



On November 17, 2011, the 2-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, thousands took to the streets to shut down lower Manhattan. Three hundred protesters were arrested. Only days before, the occupation at Zuccotti Park had been raided and the occupiers expelled or arrested. These actions have only further inspired the movement.

Photos taken by Michael Fox
Estreito Meios Production
For more images, visit flickr.com/photos/estreitomeios.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Voices of Support for Occupy Wall Street

From NACLA

November 20, 2011

By Michael Fox

On Thursday, November 17, the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, occupiers and supporters took to the streets of New York City for a day of action. In the morning, protesters blocked intersections around Wall Street, resulting in over 200 arrests. University students across the city held a day-long strike. In the afternoon, roughly 30,000 people gathered at Foley Square for a rally. Shortly after dark, the multitudes marched past City Hall and over the Brooklyn Bridge.

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The words of the chant, “El pueblo unido, jamás será vencidos” (The people united, will never be defeated), echoed off the buildings of Centre Street in Lower Manhattan just South of Foley Square. Among those in the crowd were unions, teachers, students, immigrants, youth, and older activists.

“Why did you come out here tonight?” I asked a pair of students in the crowd.

“We are part of the cause. We had to come out here. I have been here since the second week supporting,” said Juan Peralta, a high school student from Washington Heights, whose parents are from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. “Its time that we revolt, its time that especially starting from us the youth, we are the ones that are suppose to stand up because for many years our predecessor didn’t stand up, and its about time that we fight for everything that they had to suffer through.”

The chant “whose streets? our streets!” cut through the crowd, drowning out Peralta’s voice. He smiled, looked at his friend, Candice Rodriguez. They both motioned to the march. “Exactly,” they said, almost in unison, “this why we are here.”

“It’s sad that I am sixteen and if I got a job right this second I would get taxed more than a rich person would, of the 1%,” said Rodriguez who is from Queens, is of Puerto Rican and Irish decent, and like Peralta, is studying journalism at the High School of Graphic Communications Art in Midtown Manhattan. “That’s why I feel like its unjust that we have to pay the banks to be bailed out.”

“If we don’t stand up for ourselves, then who is going to stand up for us?” asked Peralta.

Not far behind Peralta and Rodriquez, in the sea of marchers, was Jane Lu, from Families for Freedom, a New York-based network by and for immigrants facing and fighting deportation.

“I have been a progressive for a long time. I know about Occupy Wall street since the first day they announced it in an email and I have been following it closely. After they arrested 700 people on the bridge, I come every chance I get to Occupy Wall Street and I’m always very excited about it,” said Lu.

“A lot of things that I have been thinking about over the years I get a chance to talk about it at Occupy Wall Street with the people,” said Lu. “Like the problem with modern society, with the government, with Wall Street, social issues, there are so many things. It’s all adding up to this point. There are a lot of problems not just one problem.”

Lu has lived in the United Sates for 16 years, but she was born in Vietnam, and grew up in China, where she participated in the Tiananmen Square protests.

“They had protest every year in Beijing in those years and that year they started on April 15, When [CPC General Secretary] Hu Yaobang, in the Communist Party, died. It went on until June 4; the Chinese government couldn’t take it anymore,” said Lu. “I don’t know if this will come to that point. The government was so scared.”

Lu finished speaking and the woman behind us tapped me on the shoulder. “I was at the Pentagon for the big march on the Pentagon in 1967,” she said, referring to the October 21, 1967 march, when 100,000 people descended on the Pentagon against the Vietnam war. Her name was Leah Margulies, and she worked with NACLA in the 1970s. I asked her to tell me more about the Pentagon march.

“That was a powerful march and we ultimately wanted to stop the war. It took a long time. It took almost ten years of protesting, from ‘65, when the first teach-ins started against the war and when Martin Luther King Jr came out against the war. It took until ’74,” she said.

“So how does it feel to be here today?” I asked.

“It’s great. I think it’s wonderful when people come out and stop being inactive and passive and try to change policies,” she said.

“Why are you here tonight? Why is this so important?”

“I have always worked to get laws to control multinational corporations. I’m part of an organization called Corporate Accountability International. We run campaigns to try to put laws in place to control multinationals and to work internationally," she said. "To change the world, basically.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

'Crossing' Awarded Honorable Mention at Chashama Film Festival


On Saturday, November 12, Crossing the American Crises was screened at the 2011 Chashama Film Festival in New York City, winning an Honorable Mention award. For more information, visit chafilmfest.com.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Na estrada da crise: Uma Resenha

De Brasil de Fato

Por Jefferson Pinheiro

Setembro 30, 2011

Um filme de estrada, sobre um país que se despedaça. Com um carro emprestado, um casal de jovens (ele estadunidense, ela brasileira) percorreu 17 mil quilômetros pelos Estados Unidos, em duas viagens. A primeira, quando estourou a crise de 2008. A segunda, um ano após a eleição de Obama. Os dois se jogaram nas ruas para ouvir o que na rua estavam sentindo, pensando, dizendo e fazendo. Um filme de depoimentos impactantes de gente do povo. Com a palavra: latinos, negros, brancos pobres e indígenas. Um registro documental contundente que desmancha a ideia que temos (ou tínhamos) do país considerado a maior potência mundial. Um lugar que está se quebrando, onde a parte mais vulnerável da sociedade tenta juntar seus cacos. “Somos a cidade mais segregada, com a taxa de crimes mais alta. Detroit é o que é por causa da indústria, do capitalismo e da democracia. Somos o fracasso de tudo isto. É o que nos resta”, lamenta o jovem negro Jon Blount, no começo do filme, sob uma cidade desolada.

Cruzando as crises norte-americanas é uma colagem de rostos, falas, lugares e situações que dão uma ideia do panorama geral. Sob a aparente segurança da economia mais forte, o caos vai entrando na vida de muita gente. Na tela, a animação gráfica percorre o trajeto no mapa que os diretores fazem nas ruas. De Rosebud a Denver e, depois, a Salt Lake City. E, assim, o território vai sendo visitado, mostrado, escutado, auscultado. Se fundem o olhar de Mike, de dentro, com o olhar de Silvia, de fora.

O documentário também foi dividido em duas partes que se completam. Na primeira, Colapso, a pior crise financeira dos Estados Unidos desde a Grande Depressão é apresentada nas notícias das TVs, jornais e rádios que escancaram o caos e se misturam com as imagens da estrada, pulando de cidade em cidade, estado em estado. Muitas vezes, da janela do carro os olhos da câmera captam paisagens áridas, degradadas, desertas, fantasmagóricas. A crise é ouvida nas falas de desilusão e desesperança, de quem perdeu o trabalho e a crença nos governos.

Na segunda parte, Ação, acompanha o que associações, Ongs, cooperativas e pessoas estão tentando reconstruir, conquistar através de mobilizações, passeatas, manifestações, greves, embates, articulações. É nesta parte que a luta da população vai sendo apresentada pelo que assegura a Declaração Universal dos Direitos Humanos, mas que não é cumprido: não há saúde, educação, moradia e vida com dignidade para todas, para todos. Cruzando as crises é, essencialmente, um documentário sobre pessoas. E elas estão o tempo todo se sucedendo na tela: trabalhadores, ativistas, desempregados, estudantes, moradores de rua, sindicalistas, professores.

Até onde se pode confundir um governo com seu povo, tanto lá quanto em qualquer lugar? Parece que os estadunidenses estão descobrindo na própria carne, parte da dor que sua pátria já distribuiu em tantas outras geografias. “Não temos uma cultura social, temos uma cultura econômica, que não é sustentável. Talvez, todo este país esteja bêbado, e estamos começando a acordar com as conseqüências. Se a economia entrar em colapso, quem sabe vamos descobrir o valor das relações humanas”, reflete Michael Combs, um senhor de barbas brancas e chapéu furado, cantor de rua, escorado na parede de uma calçada em Santa Fé, Novo México. Antes de tudo, o filme é sobre esta crise de valores alienante, acachapante, que agora sacode os cidadãos. Como em Baltimore, onde trabalhadores mobilizados estão tentando criar uma “zona de direitos humanos”, onde finalmente estes sejam respeitados.

Parece contraditório que o país imperialista, que há décadas liderava sozinho a economia mundial, deixe seus próprios filhos na mão? Não é. Michael Moore nos seus filmes já revelou estas contradições e injustiças, mostrando o quão ridícula é, muitas vezes, sua sociedade e perverso seu sistema econômico, a lógica desse mercado selvagem que move o Estado yankee em declínio.

Agora, que muitas mentiras que alienaram quase uma sociedade inteira desmoronam, vem este golpe na autoestima, na arrogância e na onipotência. Gente que se diz cansada de ser tratada como lixo. Mas refletem os norte-americanos à custa da opressão de quem e em quais lugares conseguiram viver durante tanto tempo em altos níveis econômicos? Para isso não há perguntas nem respostas claras no filme. No entanto, para recuperar sua condição econômica, os mais pobres não miram outras riquezas que não as do próprio país: 10% da população é dona de 70% da riqueza total. Reivindicam redistribuir.

Incluindo-se nos excluídos

Mesmo que não chegue a ser didático, é um fi lme informativo, militante. Um grito de parte dos estadunidenses se incluindo entre os excluídos do mundo. São 43 milhões de pobres e 47 milhões sem seguro médico, que provavelmente não receberão atendimento se adoecerem. Desde o início da crise, em 2008, oito milhões de pessoas já perderam suas casas, por conta das hipotecas. Atualmente, apenas 53% das crianças negras terminam a escola. Na Califórnia, nos últimos 20 anos foram abertas 24 novas prisões e apenas uma universidade. É uma fábrica de prisões privadas, que serve para ganhar dinheiro com as pessoas que o próprio sistema exclui. Um em cada nove negros está preso nos Estados Unidos. No estado de Nova Iorque, dos encarcerados em seus 70 presídios, 80% são negros e latinos. “Enquanto estão resgatando as instituições financeiras, seguem encerrando comunidades pobres e negras em celas exóticas.

Exigimos liberdade para respirar!”, se impõe uma garota num parque em Oakland, enquanto alguns estudos falam na volta da escravidão.

“Resgataram os bancos! E nos venderam!”, denunciam os cartazes numa manifestação. “Não podem usar nosso dinheiro para nos oprimir”, alguém fala ao microfone. Passadas a euforia e a esperança no governo de Obama, a população tem a sensação de “mais do mesmo”. Para o casal que dirigiu o filme, a classe trabalhadora, os pobres e as minorias estão piores do que nunca e a indignação diante da crise econômica desastrosa é resultado de um caos gerado por um sistema de desigualdades. “As soluções não vão vir desde cima. As soluções para cruzar as crises estadunidenses estão nas mãos do povo”, constatam Mike e Silvia, diante da própria câmera. É o que enxerga também o líder comunitário Manuel Criollo: “É o povo que sustenta esse sistema”, lembrando que as pessoas organizadas podem ser as protagonistas das mudanças.

Não é uma tarefa simples a de colocar tanta gente e tantas situações para compor este outro retrato dos Estados Unidos e seu povo, mas por fim, é mesmo esta diversidade fragmentada que nos dá a oportunidade de compreender parte do que se passa por lá. E pensar nos erros que outras nações podem cometer, quando têm este país como referência. Em Porto Alegre, quando a produção foi exibida em junho, Alexandro, um cubano que passava por intercâmbio na cidade, repetia após a sessão que o fi lme precisava ser visto em Cuba, por todos. Desfazer mitos. Colocar a verdade no seu lugar. Por aqui também.

Num viaduto da capital gaúcha, há muitos anos se renova uma inscrição lembrando um pensamento de Mao: “O imperialismo é um tigre de papel”. Sempre achei esta frase um tanto ingênua, muito mais um desejo do que realidade. Mas este filme nos mostra sua fragilidade latente. Neste momento em que há tantas revoltas populares em ebulição e o capitalismo parece entrar novamente numa encruzilhada, mesmo que não seja de papel, o império outra vez expõe seus rasgos, dá sinais de que um dia pode e deve se desmanchar.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15, 2011 - Help Us Spread the Word!

Dear Friends,

We are looking to raise $3000 to launch a grassroots campaign to put our documentary, Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse to Action, in the hands of people all across the planet, and we need your help!

Three years ago, today, we set out on a trip around the United States to hear from the “American” people. That day was one of the most financially tragic in recent history. Lehman Brothers collapsed, hurdling the U.S. in a tailspin toward the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. On our 2008 tour, we spoke with everyday folks across the country and nearly all of them told us the same thing, “The people in Washington don’t represent us. We need to take Washington back.”

To continue reading or to support, visit our donate page.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Review: Grassroots Solutions to American Crises

By Ben Dangl

From Toward Freedom

Reviewed: Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse To Action, A Documentary Film by Sílvia Leindecker and Michael Fox. Published by PM Press/Estreito Meios Productions

When the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression hit the US on September 15, 2008, filmmakers Sílvia Leindecker and Michael Fox began a journey across the country to see how the economy was impacting people’s lives. Their interviews, which span two years and nearly 40 states, draw from farmers, truck drivers, homeless people, workers, immigrants and more. The result is the documentary Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse To Action, a film full of desperation, hope and grassroots solutions.

Leindecker and Fox are the makers of the earlier documentary Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas, and Fox was an editor of the book Venezuela Speaks!: Voices From The Grassroots. Like these earlier works, Crossing the American Crises highlights the voices of people participating in grassroots activism and everyday struggles for a better world.

The first stop of their trip is Detroit, where the camera cuts to empty store fronts and factories. “Detroit is what it is because of industry and the industrial revolution, and capitalism, and so-called democracy and how all those failed. And this is what we have left with it,” Jon Blount of the activist collective Detroit Summer tells Leindecker and Fox. Such bits of hard-won insight from streets, factory floors and living rooms across America are interspersed throughout the film.

The next visit is to the Rosebud Lakota Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where they speak with Alfred Bone Shirt. “We’re seeing that there’s a segment of our society that feel we’re left out, neglected, abused; rights are violated. We’re in a depression down here so bad that people just wanna give up.” His words are underscored by footage of the reservation itself, a place crushed by economic depression.

After stops in Utah, Oakland and Los Angeles, they head out onto Route 66, where, Fox tells the camera they want to “see the direct effects on the local community.” And indeed, that is what they find at nearly every stop in their tour; very real life stories of how the US economy is making life difficult for people from coast to coast and everywhere in between.

In New Orleans, they speak with people in the Lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood that was destroyed by Katrina in 2005. Robert Green and his family lived in this community for 38 years before Katrina hit, and at the time of the shooting of the film they were still living in a FEMA trailer. Green is interviewed with his daughter and wife next to a string of empty lots – places where his neighbors’ homes used to be located before the storm destroyed them.

Fox asks Green what he thinks about the government bailout, the major issue of the day. Green tells him, “It’s ironic that it only took [the government] two weeks to issue a $700 billion check. It took them three years after Katrina and this is what you see.” He pointed to the empty lots, saying the names of the families that used to live there. “So basically every house, every family that’s gone actually was a family that should be here now. And if they would have been given the money in two weeks like the way they did in Congress, the way they did in Wall Street, then every last one of these families would have rebuilt their houses, and this whole Gulf Coast area would have been rebuilt because everybody in the Gulf Coast is basically like the people down here: family first.”

This story conveys a sentiment shared by many of the interviewees in this film: outrage at the disparity between the government’s concern for Wall Street over the people bearing the everyday grind of the crisis.

Crossing the American Crises then turns to the hope people felt in the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Yet after the election, the camera cuts to a stream of grim economic news, and stories of people struggling to make ends meet. One college graduate appearing in the film went through 109 job interviews before finally finding a very low-paying position at Staples. A homeless man on the Gulf Coast tells Fox and Leindeker he’ll ask them for money after the interview so he can get some lunch.

On a cold, snowy street corner in New York City, they interview John Lambertus, a homeless man who lost his job in May of 2008 and couldn’t find new work. Lambertus points to a plastic bag he’s carrying, saying, “You see this? This is my blanket, another jacket in case this one gets messed up, and another pair of pants – and that’s my situation.” He worked in a printing press for thirty years before losing his job. “I’ll be 51 in April and I’m in the street,” he says, the cold wind thundering against the microphone.

So what is to be done with all of this bleak news from the American crises? That leads to the second part of the film: Action. Crossing the American Crises goes on to include many solutions to these economic and social problems, focusing on inspiring stories of grassroots alternatives and responses.

There is the Vermont Workers’ Center fighting for affordable healthcare for all, the Green Worker Cooperative in the Bronx that sells recycled building materials, the Santa Fe Alliance in New Mexico advocating for local producers and businesses over tax-dodging multinational chains, and the Iraq Veterans Against the War struggling for veterans’ benefits. There are stories of people working for affordable housing, jobs, better working conditions, improved public transportation and prison justice.

These groups are largely led by the people who are impacted the most by these various crises. Organizers are meeting these challenges in states across the country. “Organizing is the key! Organizing is the key!” JoAnn Watson from the Detroit Council tells a boisterous crowd at the US Social Forum in her city.

Alongside these stories of hopeful organizing is a vision for a better world. “The people have to act through their own organizations to implement their vision of what life should be like,” explains Kathleeen Cleaver, a law professor at Yale University.

That’s a central message of this film – that when the politicians, banks, bosses and economy fail to work for the people, it’s the people that have to form the backbone of movements for economic justice, peace and equality and rights. In the midst of these crises, those movements are already thriving across the US today.

As Robert Green from the Lower 9th Ward says, “Basically, we need to start taking back our government, taking back our taxes, start taking back our control from our elected officials because they’re not putting us first.”

Such insight from people across the country makes Crossing the American Crises an impressive film that captures the spirit of America today. Its stories of human hardship, solidarity and hope paint a portrait of America that is both heart-breaking and inspiring. This documentary is a powerful reminder of the countless social movements working each day to transform this country, from the fields of Oklahoma to the streets of New Orleans.

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Benjamin Dangl is the author of the new book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press). He edits TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America. Email Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com.