Cinema Politica: 10 Years of Screening Truth to Power


Cinema Politica, Canada’s only independent political documentary screening network, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Since starting at Concordia University in Montreal in 2003, the network now includes over 90 chapters, 70 of them across Canada. From campus theaters to community halls, they show ground-breaking political documentaries that engage, enlighten, and inspire.

Screening over 200 films and reaching more than 50,000 viewers per year, the network has become a vital platform for independent documentaries across Canada and internationally. The network’s success has helped bridge the gap between art and activism and shows that the public still craves thought-provoking documentary.

“We’ve grown organically over the last decade to become a diverse network of film lovers and activists who work to educate and inspire change in their communities,” says Svetla Turnin, co-founder Cinema Politica. “This is in large part thanks to the tireless work of independent filmmakers and to the volunteers across the country who organize screenings.”

“In an age of corporatized, individualized media consumption, it is a political act to choose to share a film experience with other people in the same physical space,” adds Mark Achbar, director of The Corporation and Manufacturing Consent. “The Cinema Politica Network keeps alive the act of watching documentaries as an, interactive, meaningful human experience.”

As cuts to public funding for documentary filmmaking persist in Canada, the network’s success shows that there is no shortage of audiences for engaged documentary films—just a shortage of outlets.

“At a time of decreasing venues, funding support and forums for independent documentary, ten years on, we’re proud to be providing an alternative, viable, and vibrant space for independent political documentary,” said Cinema Politica co-founder and Ezra Winton.

Celebrations and special events are planned throughout the year, including the launch of Screening Truth to Power, a book bringing together critical essays on political cinema and art by renowned professor John Downing, award-winning Canadian filmmaker Shannon Walsh, and Steve James, director of the ground-breaking Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters, among others. Also coming is an anniversary celebration in Montreal and a series of 10th anniversary screenings featuring special guests.

More than a screening network, Cinema Politica also works to engage audiences in social issues and strengthen independent filmmaking in Canada. Past screenings include presentations and Q&As with directors from around the world, ranging from the U.S.-based Yes Men to Anand Patwardhan, India’s most celebrated documentary filmmaker, to home grown cinema luminaries like Alanis Obomsawin, Mark Achbar, and Elle Flanders.

Cinema Politica has also:

  • Established the “Alanis Obomsawin Award for Community and Resistance” and gave the first award to Toronto filmmaker John Greyson for his commitment to political filmmaking and his activism in the queer community. Greyson is currently in prison in Egypt where he was arrested on his way to Palestine to explore a new documentary possibility.
  • Launched the “Adopt a Doc” program, which has successfully raised funds for The Secret Trial 5, a documentary on anti-terrorism laws in Canada.
  • Created a unique public directory of 50 Canadian independent filmmakers at www.cinemapolitica. org/artists, featuring bios, film clips, and exclusive interviews.
  • Organized national screening tours with films such as The Coca Cola Case and You Don’t Like the Truth: Four days inside Guantanamo.
  • Partnered for national campaigns, like the “Back the Tap” screening tour with the Council of Canadians, the Sierra Youth Coalition, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, among others.

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Cinema Politica is a Montreal-based media arts network that screens independent political film and video (cinemapolitica.org).