The premise behind Cultures of Resistance (COR) are communities who use arts and culture (as opposed to weaponry) to resist oppression throughout the world. It is my impression that Iara Lee is a pacifist who seeks non-violent resistance to oppression in all its forms. The COR film is situated in disparate locations as Brazil, Lebanon, Iran, Occupied Palestine, Burma, and throughout Africa to name a few. First the film identifies conflict in said places, like Israel-controlled Palestine, brutality against the populace (including monks) in Burma, resource exploitation and wholesale slaughter in Africa such as in Liberia, Congo, and Rwanda, and the impending invasion of Iran. Subsequent to identifying some of the issues, COR provides concrete examples of how poetry, music, film, dance, paintings and other artistic expression helps bring awareness, break down racial/social barriers, and resist injustice. To the film’s credit, examples of where non-violent resistance did not work is also shown such as in the Congo where peaceful resistance leaders were strung-up by despots. The Congolese resistance have resorted to armed struggle since. Another case was in Burma where the Buddhist Monks had large numbers of their ranks tortured and murdered since their peaceful protests, their price was steep and the best they got from their actions was perhaps world-awareness of just how brutal the Burmese government is. It is a sign of maturity and sophistication when a director can present both sides to problem solving, though COR’s bias rests firmly in the non-violence camp. The topic is vast and COR may require more than one viewing for the audience to absorb the deluge of information the film presents. It is a great way to bring awareness on timely issues going on in the world and artistic ways of resistance. A personal favorite is the Iranian hip hop group Mahdyar.
I am blessed to have the aid of many angel helpers while putting together the upcoming book, Muslimgauze: Chasing the Shadow of Bryn Jones. Among them is Iara Lee, who co-ordinated talent-filled organization Cultures of Resistance to produce the promotional video for the book you see above. As you can tell, the above-mentioned release date has passed. Due to length, the book (which I will soon blog about in greater detail) took longer to edit than an anticipated. Two editors had to carefully go over a massive amount of text, and then there was the task of reviewing and assimilating their edits. All the while, new facts about the late Bryn Jones surfaced, and that too had to be integrated into the text. I will probably blog about new information on Muslimgauze that will come up after the book is published. But back to Iara Lee.
I have never had the privilege of meeting Iara Lee in person, but I first learned about who she was through a favored documentary she directed, Modulations: Cinema for the Ear. The documentary focuses on the electronic music renaissance of the mid-to-late 1990′s, but also traces its roots back to the theremin of the 1920′s, musique concrete, John Cage, disco, house music from Detroit during the 80′s and on. Rave culture during the 1990′s, and the offshoots like experimental and ambient was more than just dance parties, it was a social movement. But that movement was somehow sabotaged by authorities (Britain’s repetitive beat law, anyone?) and drug culture. But for a moment, we were on the cusp of something great. It is sometimes difficult to watch this documentary because of the nostalgia I have for that era, and the elation of so much great music being made and sometimes communally enjoyed. I have yet to experience something as powerful, and frankly, as revolutionary, as raves were. Here is Modulations in full posted by Iara Lee and team
Iara Lee and I connected via the internet where I expressed what a fan I am of Modulations. I subsequently learned of her activism, such as the Freedom Flotilla a peaceful aid ship on a mission to bring food, medicine, and supplies to Gaza. When the ship approached Gaza, the Israeli authorities boarded the ship and went on a killing spree that took the lives of 9 unarmed aid workers. This footage below was taken by Iara and subsequently released to the world.
Iara Lee continues to visit strife-afflicted areas throughout the world such as Afghanistan, Africa, and the Middle East in order to bring awareness and hopefully elicit a response from those in more privileged places. Please visit the Cultures of Resistance Youtube page to find out what is happening to those less fortunate. When Iara Lee learned of the Muslimgauze book project, I suspect she found a kindred spirit in Bryn who did through music what she does through moving and still images, report on strife torn areas with the intention of promoting awareness and change.