During an age when the click of a "like" button or the forwarding of the latest meme often passes off as grassroots activism, someone like Karen Topakian is both hard to believe and incredibly refreshing.
Topakian is an activist. No, seriously, an actual activist who has been arrested while putting her body and freedom on the line dozens using nonviolent civil disobedience to protest everything from nuclear proliferation to environmental issues to human rights concerns and more. Far from a one issue activist, Topakian is, instead, the epitome of someone who will fight for the rights of others again and again and again.
Director Dan Goldes captures Topakian from her own perspective during the brief yet involving 5-minute short film Arrested (Again), screening as part of the Shorts 13: The Good Fight block of short films during the 2018 Indy Film Fest. The short is set to screen twice during the festival - Friday, April 27th at 5:15 pm in DeBoest Lecture Hall and Friday, May 4th at 7pm inside Indy Film Salon, the latest screening venue for the Indy-based festival that is in its 15th year and runs from April 26th-May 6th at Newfields.
Both light in spirit and emotionally involving, Arrested (Again) features Topakian as a rather matter-of-fact, compelling figure who believes that Americans now, more than ever, need to exercise their First Amendment rights and she's spent pretty much her entire life doing exactly that.
Having screened at nearly 50 film festivals, Arrested (Again) is the type of short film that seldom wins the big awards yet is one of those films that you can't help but remember by the time the festival ends and you're thinking about your own personal best of the fest flicks. There's nothing particularly fancy going on here - simply Goldes serving notice about this passionate and compassionate activist extraordinaire.
One of Topakian's most recent actions may have been one of her most visible and memorable. On January 25, 2017, Topakian was arrested as part of a Greenpeace action when a "Resist" banner was hung on a crane near the White House. It was just the latest in dozens of arrests for the San Francisco Art Institute filmmaking graduate whose career began as a nuclear disarmament campaigner for Greenpeace followed by 16 years as the executive director of the Agape Foundation - Fund for Nonviolent Social Change before starting Topakian Communications and eventually returning to Greenpeace as its board chair.
In less than five minutes, Arrested (Again) can't possibly capture the fullness of Topakian's lifelong commitment to activism. However, it's impossible to watch Arrested (Again) without being reminded that while clicking those "likes" and sharing those memes may be valuable that true activism and change happens when we exercise our constitutionally guaranteed right to have our voices be heard in fighting for the rights of others.
For more information on Arrested (Again), visit the film's official website linked to in the credits. For ticket information for the Indy Film Fest screenings, visit the Indy Film Fest website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic