8×8 Film Festival comes to DCU

Suas’ 8×8 Film Festival came to DCU last week, with free events such as film screenings, photography workshops and a Q&A session with the director of Unearthed, Jolynn Minnaar, open to students.

The festival, which tours five universities around Ireland, is a development-focused arts festival meant to bring attention to under-covered topics like the dangers of fracking and the tribulations of young people living in developing countries.

Sepideh, a documentary following the life of a young girl in Iran who aspires towards a career in astronomy, kicked off the festival on Monday with a screening in The Venue. The documentary was sparsely attended, in part due to the change of venue, though less than twenty people registered online.

Apart from documenting the life of young Iranian girl Sepideh Hooshyar, the film delves into the minutiae of living with aspirations in the backwoods of Iran. In a town beset by drought, Sepideh is expected to live responsibly and to follow her head rather than her heart, though she eventually eschews the advice of her family and teachers as she remains faithful to her choice of career.

On Tuesday Chris de Bode, a Dutch documentary photographer, delivered a workshop on how best to approach photography in a range of different situations.

de Bode is known for tackling contentious subjects in his photos, tending to focus on ongoing issues in developing countries. With a wide range of experience in both photography and giving photography workshops, de Bode shared his wisdom with students for an hour and a half addressing issues such as the ethics of conflict journalism and the art of photography story-telling.

The final night of the 8×8 festival centred around the screening of Unearthed, a documentary tackling the controversial subject of fracking, and a question and answer session with its director, Jolynn Minnaar.

The film starts in Minnaar’s hometown of Karoo, South Africa. Karoo is a semi-deserted region of South Africa with just four people per km2 and 25% unemployment.

Minnaar introduces the audience to her neighbours and their farming lives, paying special attention to their reliance on a clean water supply. When it is announced that the possibility of fracking Karoo for shale-gas underground is being investigated, Minnaar is initially in favour of the idea as a means to reduce unemployment in the area.

Following a call from America about the damage fracking has done to the water supply in a Pennsylvanian town, Minnaar decides to travel to America herself to investigate.

Minnaar unravels the actual effects of fracking through her conversations with victims and intellectuals; coming to the conclusion that the act of fracking does no damage to a water supply, but it is the process in enabling the act that has led to the contamination of water in these American communities

In her Q&A following the screening Minnaar blamed the consumer culture of the world for “making something like fracking attractive” and said the whole debate relied on people’s vulnerabilities, as in Karoo.

The festival is currently in UCC for a week, before finishing up its run with a week in UCD from the 10th – 14th of November.

Bryan Grogan and Odrán de Bhaldraithe

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