M.U.C.K. Film Festival Spotlights Social Change

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Enter M.U.C.K. - or Movies of Un-Common Knowledge - a new film fest that brings big issues to the big screen in Toronto. For its inaugural edition, running from October 1st to 4th at The Royal cinema, the M.U.C.K. Film Festival & Forum has lined up an eclectic bunch of feature docs tackling some of the major social, political, and economic messes of our time.

The idea behind M.U.C.K. is to engage audiences and to get people talking with filmmakers, organizations and experts after each screening. Will this stir up any local activism? Who knows, but I did learn a few things from this year's programme about folks taking positive action against environmental disasters, war, and injustice.

It all kicks off on Thursday with the Canadian premiere of Fuel (7:30pm), a project that has been in the works for career environmentalist Josh Tickell since 1997, when he first crossed the U.S. with his colourful biodiesel "Veggie Van" to raise awareness of alternative power sources. His campaign grows throughout the filming of this documentary.

Crude (Oct 4, 6:30pm) examines the impact of sloppy oil extraction practices in the Ecuadorian Amazon. A $27 billion lawsuit against Chevron (Texaco) is still pending, while indigenous people still living in the area are surrounded in black sludge. Least recommended of the enviro-docs is Age Of Stupid (Oct 3, 6:30pm), set in an imaginary future. The film takes a cautionary look at current events from the perspective of one surviving man maintaining an archive of human history somewhere in the Arctic.

One of my favourite docs this year, Rip: A Remix Manifesto (Oct 3rd, 12 noon & 12 midnight) gets another run in this forum. Here, Brett Gaylor challenges existing copyright laws, arguing that mega corporations have the most to gain from intellectual property rules and that limiting access stifles creativity in an increasingly digital world. A great soundtrack and some sexy live clips are provided by remix artist Girl Talk. (FREE admission for students with a M.U.C.K. postcard and their student ID).

Shifting gears a little, the festival closer Call + Response (Oct 4, 9:15pm) is musician Justin Dillon's response to coming across a real example of human trafficking in his travels. Dillon connects what he knows - music - to the issue, calling on other performers to join a contemporary abolitionist movement. The result is a series of musical numbers edited with footage of brothels in India and Cambodia, interviews with spokespersons and experts. And, well, although this doc is largely about music, I think I would have preferred it without.

The M.U.C.K. Film Festival & Forum runs October 1st - 4th at The Royal, 608 College Street. Tickets $10-$100 at T.O. TIX Booth (Yonge-Dundas Square) or online.

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