A Blooming Business

Planet In Focus Film Festival Preview

I won't be buying flowers anytime soon. I've just finished watching A Blooming Business, a one-hour doc screening this weekend at the Planet in Focus Film Festival. It follows Jane, a Kenyan flower farm employee exposed to chemicals and sexual harassment at work on a regular basis (not to mention less-than-fair wages and excessively long work days). While it's unlikely that Jane picked the flowers at my neighbourhood grocery store, her story sticks with me... as does the fact that I don't know where most of the stuff I buy really comes from.

And so to promote public awareness of environmental (and related social) issues, the Planet in Focus International Environmental Film & Video Festival runs from October 21st to 25th in Toronto. This 10th edition of PIF looks to the future of the movement with a spotlight called Fast Forward Toward a 20/20 Vision. But it's the docs that touch on more personal stories from underrepresented communities, like Jane's, that pack the most punch.

Voices from El Sayed (Oct 24, 9pm) is at the top of my should see list. It brings us to the Bedouin village of El Sayed in the Israeli desert, said to have the highest concentration of deaf people in the world. In fact, deafness is so prevalent in the community that El Sayed has its own sign language and, with so many affected, most are able to communicate in this way. The doc centers on a toddler named Muhammad who receives a modern hearing implant and follow-up treatment from the Israeli health authority. In a community where deafness is not such a bad thing, Muhammad's family and neighbours look on as his hearing develops.

And if you haven't had your fill of the cutest kids ever in Voices from El Sayed, try Marina of the Zabbaleen (Oct 24, 3pm). This doc looks at the day-to-day life of a Zabbaleen family, which are, according to PIF's description, a culture of Coptic Christians living in Egypt who make a living through garbage collection and recycling. The Zabbaleen eat, sleep, work, play, and live - quite literally - in a dump.

Planet In Focus kicks off on Wednesday, October 21st with Finding Farley, which sometimes feels like director Leanne Allison's family vacation videos. With husband and small child in tow, Allison travels across parts of Canada by land and canoe following the footsteps of acclaimed conservationist/writer Farley Mowat, and ending the trip by visiting the author at his Nova Scotia home. Mowat is expected at the screening.

Planet in Focus runs from October 21st to 25th. Tickets are $10 (galas are $20) and are available online or at 2 Carlton Street, West Mezzanine. Still from A Blooming Business courtesy of PIF.

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