DOXA presents diverse line-up of documentary films

The 16th annual festival includes justice forum, French French series, and plenty of political content.

Doxa, a Greek word meaning popular opinion or well-known belief, is an apt name for the documentary film festival that aims to shed light on pressing issues and share new ideas and inspiring stories from around the world. DOXA’s 16th festival is happening from May 4–14 at various venues in Vancouver and offers a wide range of programming spanning the political to the pornographic. Of course, there isn’t time to take in every film at the festival, so I’ve compiled some highlights.

The opening film is Marie Clements’ documentary musical The Road Forward. Featuring Indigenous musicians, the film chronicles First Nations history in BC, their tradition of grassroots activism, and their strong sense of community. Another film featuring Indigenous musicians is RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World. The unacknowledged and extensive role of First Nations artists in the evolution and development of rock, blues, and funk is brought to light in this fascinating film by directors Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana.


RUMBLE is part of the Spotlight on Troublemakers series that brings together films about activists, revolutionaries, and change-makers who have shaped our world. Another notable film in this series is Heather White’s and Lynn Zhang’s Complicit, which reveals how the global electronic manufacturing industry in China really works. You may never look at your iPhone the same way again. Some troublemakers from closer to home are featured in The Caretakers, telling the story of the fight between anti-Kinder Morgan activists and the RCMP on Burnaby Mountain.


Political activism is a theme of so many of this year’s films, including a highly relevant series called Trumped! Now What? curated by The Tyee founder David Beers. He has selected three films that he feels are relevant to our current political climate: Ada for Mayor about housing activist Ada Colau who became the mayor of Barcelona, PACmen shows the inner workings of Dr. Ben Carson’s campaign, and Waking the Sleeping Giant shows the growing movement of activists, politicians, and citizens fighting to take back their democracy. Also notable is Vancouver: No Fixed Address, a timely film exploring our current housing crisis.

The Justice Forum series pairs each film with a panel of speakers and explores questions of justice and morality. Some of the films include Free Lunch Society, examining universal basic income; Pornocracy: The New Sex Multinationals, investigating the profit-driven porn industry; and You Are on Indian Land, documenting the Akwesasne Mohawk community’s blockade of the international bridge near Cornwall, Ontario in 1968 that aimed to raise awareness of treaty violations.

For the third year, DOXA presents their French French series that includes six films and a program work by filmmaker Chris Marker. One that stands out in this series is Être-Cheval (Horse-Being) which is an intimate look at the experience of Karen, a transgender ex-schoolteacher who trains in “Pony Play” to imitate horse behaviours. Vers la tendresse (Towards Tenderness) looks like a good pick if you want to be inspired by men in Seine-Saint-Denis discussing love, desire, sex, and race. 

Manifesto appropriately closes out the festival with a call to action, or many calls to action, as Cate Blanchett plays 13 different characters, sharing their words of wisdom from the great manifestos of the past century. No matter which film(s) you choose to take in at DOXA, it’s sure to provoke, inspire, and entertain.