DocuAsia Forum looks at the African diaspora

Photo courtesy of Cinevolution Media Arts Society

Taking a leap into another perspective, the organizers of DocuAsia Forum offer viewers a special chance to see documentary film Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump) on March 10, 2018 at SFU Harbour Centre.

The Cinevolution Media Arts Society is responsible for programming the twice-annual DocuAsia Forum. Their 2018 spring edition will follow a theme of displacement by showing documentary films that put the focus on sensitive and relevant social issues concerning contemporary Asia.

A wider conversation

This spring, Cinevolution is taking a look outside Asia to consider reflections of relevant social issues. Set in Northern Morocco, Africa, Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump) is a film by Moritz Siebel and Estephan Wagner where the camera is turned over to a local refugee from Mali, Abou Bakar Sidibé, who films his own experience. Its inclusion in the DocuAsia Forum allows for a wider conversation about refugees abroad and also those who are here in Canada.

“We focus on intercultural understanding and communication plus fostering understanding of media in the community,” says Yun-Jou Chang, Vice-President of Cinevolution.

Originally founded by a group of Pan Asian filmmakers, artists and community organizers, Cinevolution is uniquely focused on identity politics and, increasingly, grapples with the theme of gender. Its team and board consists mainly of women who are acutely aware of these issues and challenges.

Parallels between Chinese and African diasporas

In February 2017, Chang and her team at Cinevolution attended the forum for people of African descent at the Orpheum Annex in downtown Vancouver.

“It was cool to hear the speakers talk about diaspora – the history of slavery and oppression and forced extraction from their homes. It made us reflect on how the African diaspora is different or similar to the Chinese diaspora. We are interested in diaspora – for our artistic programming and because we hold multiple passports, often traveling between Vancouver and our home country of origin/parents’ country of origin,” she says.

As curators of the DocuAsia Forum, this initial exposure to in-depth conversation about the African diaspora led to thinking about their own migrant and immigrant communities from Asia. Part of their reflection was that in their own communities, they have found that immigrant communities tend to be the least sympathetic to refugees as refugees have not gone through the proper channels that immigrant communities have had to go through.

“We want to use intercultural engagement to reach out – being forced out of your home by war is different than choosing to come to a new country as a skilled immigrant,” says Chang. “Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump) also brings up fascinating questions about borders, militarism… it is a great film.”

Exploring issues through various approaches

Still from the movie Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump). | Photo courtesy of Cinevolution Media Arts Society

DocuAsia Forum works in partnership with the City of Richmond, SFU’s David Lam Centre, KPU’s Asian Studies Department and Centre A. Its format includes a showing of the documentary film followed by a panel discussion. The panel will include representation from an academic perspective, from community-based organizers and from the filmmaker (or a local artist).

“We provide a venue (often at the Richmond campus, but not always), and provide refreshments and speakers who help guide a discussion on the issues the film raises. Depending on the film and a number of other factors, we sometimes have a large contingent of students in attendance as well,” says Robert Menzies, chair of the Asian Studies Program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and frequent Cinevolution collaborator.

For 2018, Chang notes that the theme of displacement follows from the 2014 theme of “Syria Speaks” which grabbed media attention on the refugee crisis and fed conversation about refugees in Canada.

“At DocuAsia Forum, we want to talk about refugees and their issues in Vancouver and how that relates to/reflects the world more globally. There is a local connection from these global films to how displacement is happening in this country (there was displacement of indigenous people in Canada by the settlers). We are really talking about migratory movements generally,” says Chang.

For more information about Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump) and DocuAsia, please visit