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Squeaky Wheel documentaries explore segregation, local economy, mental illness

For the past five years, Squeaky Wheel has been sending documentary filmmakers out into the community to help grass-roots organizations tell their stories.

“Channels: Stories from the Niagara Frontier,” a project designed to merge the creative energy of filmmakers and community groups into a unified voice, will screen its latest crop of documentaries at 7 tonight in the Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre.

The films in this year’s program explore the importance of growing the local economy, the history of racial segregation in Buffalo housing and society’s treatment of the mentally ill.

Goda Trakumaite, Squeaky Wheel’s director of programming and outreach, who coordinated this year’s program, characterized “Channels” as a way to broaden the public’s understanding of underexposed issues.

“The idea is to produce films about topics that are not often covered in the news and kind of focus on underreported stories and things happening in the city that deserve more attention,” Trakumaite said. “I think in general in documentaries, the trend has been to really include ‘subject’ into the actual storytelling role. [To] make sure we’re not talking about somebody, but it’s people talking about themselves.”

In its five years, the impact of “Channels” has spread far beyond Western New York. Trakumaite said previous “Channels” documentaries – including films about the abuse of Native Americans in state-run schools, the effect of the proposed Peace Bridge expansion on neighborhood residents and the fight for a living wage – have been screened at conferences and other venues throughout the United States.

Here’s a look at this year’s documentaries:

• “Rooted,” a collaboration among filmmakers Kyle Toth and Ryan Delmar and the local economic advocacy organization Buffalo First, looks at local businesses striving to keep money circulating within the local economy. The film includes interviews with business owners like Block Club’s Patrick Finan, Kevin Gardner of Five Points Bakery, Justin Booth of Go Bike Buffalo and Tim Herzog of Flying Bison.

• “This Doesn’t Happen Here,” produced by the Erie County Fair Housing Partnership and local filmmaker Brian Milbrand, takes a historical look at the persistent racial segregation that has long plagued Buffalo. The film, according to a release, “argues that segregation was created and sustained by human decisions and hard work and can be unmade in the same way.”

• “Not Without Us,” by the Mental Health Peer Connection and filmmaker Sam Avery, strives to correct the way the mentally ill are stigmatized and treated by a society that is often indifferent or overly prescriptive when it comes to the treatment of this misunderstood population. The subjects of this film, according to a release, band together “to stand up for their rights by redefining the nature of the problem and reclaiming their states as integral members of society.”


What: “Channels: Stories from the Niagara Frontier”

When: 7 tonight

Where: Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre, 639 Main St.

Tickets: $1 to $10

Info: 884-7172,