The Beat

The Beat

POLLEY-TICS: “If you’re not interested in hockey or politics don’t bother reading this,” begins the latest missive from Canadian-born actress


POLLEY-TICS: “If you’re not interested in hockey or politics don’t bother reading this,” begins the latest missive from Canadian-born actress

Sarah Polley.

Hollywood’s most passionate fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and socialism took time from filming Kingdom Come in Alberta to bash that Canadian province’s “insane right-wing government” for slashing social services. For the 20-year-old star of The Sweet Hereafter, Go, Guinevere and a growing list of big-budget and independent films, politics is not a spectator sport. As a Canadian child star, she refused to remove an anti-Gulf War peace symbol during a meeting with Disney execs. An activist on the left wing of Canada’s New Democratic Party, she joined the

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

‘s fight to block cuts in social spending and in 1996 lost two teeth when activists clashed with police. Polley now spends much of her time in Hollywood but prefers Toronto. “What I thought would happen is that there would be this awful reaction when I was in Hollywood over my political beliefs,” she complains. “Instead, they’ve sort of adopted it as this cute little gimmick. I just think they don’t take it very seriously and they make it part of the story. ‘Oh, isn’t that cute? She got a couple of teeth knocked out.’… It’s very insulting because it’s not a gimmick. Obviously, I’d pick a more marketable one if it was.”… Polley’s active with

Artists Against Racism

, the cross-border group founded in 1992 by Canadian journalist

Lisa Cherniak

, which also draws backing from actors

Dan Aykroyd


Mike Myers


Graham Greene

; directors

Norman Jewison


Atom Egoyan

; musicians

Sarah McLachlan


k.d. lang.

OFF THE RESERVATION: Activist author

Sherman Alexie

turned his short story of Indian life, “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona,” into the screenplay for the 1998 film Smoke Signals. Despite frustrations with that project–“Studios would say, ‘Do you think we could make these characters white?'”–Alexie now wants to make a film of his novel Reservation Blues. “I’m back to square one. I get questions like: ‘How come your Indians talk so much? Aren’t they supposed to be silent?'” says Alexie, adding, “All the crap you hear about the movie business is true…. They’re not necessarily more evil than people in other industries…. But you just expect more from art.” Why bother? “I have a serious social agenda. I want to reach a lot of people, and movies are much more egalitarian than books.” In February Alexie headlined a Seattle reading to benefit

Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition

, which seeks to dismantle dams and restore salmon to the Columbia/Snake River system.

CAMPUS PROTESTS: Law students under arrest? That’s the story at the University of California Law School, where protesters seek to restore diversity. After Proposition 209 restricted affirmative action, UCLAW went from a 1994 first-year class that included forty-six African-Americans and fifty-seven Latinos to a 1999 first-year class with two African-Americans and seventeen Latinos. The UCLAW

Coalition to Prevent Resegregation

–which includes students, faculty and alumni–has battled to get the administration to address the fact that UCLAW admits the lowest proportion of African-Americans and Latinos of all UC law schools. “We spent two years trying to work through the standard channels. We just didn’t see any progress,” says

Susanne Blossom

, a second-year law student who was arrested. After a rally featuring California Assembly Speaker

Antonio Villaraigosa

, twelve students locked themselves in the school’s records office. Hundreds of students lined a hallway chanting “UC Regents–We See Racists!” as police led handcuffed students away. “We realized there was no reason for the administration to change policies if it was comfortable,” says Blossom. “We decided to make them uncomfortable.”… At Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, students scuffled with campus security during a protest against low-wage subcontracting by the university’s hospital. Hopkins has contracted with a laundry that pays $5.15 an hour and has resisted organizing by the

Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE)

. Students marched on the administration with religious leaders, including Bishop

Douglas Miles

, a Hopkins alumnus and

Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development

activist, who played a key role in passage of that city’s living-wage ordinance…. Elsewhere, the campus struggle to insure that clothing with school logos isn’t made in sweatshops got a boost when Duke University withdrew rights from twenty-eight companies to manufacture apparel with the university’s logo because the companies wouldn’t disclose their factories’ locations.

DOWN ON THE FARM: In February a 28-year-old upstate New York dairy farmer shot himself dead after opening his milk payment check. Suicide has become the No. 1 unnatural cause of death for farmers, as prices for milk and other commodities have collapsed under pressure from federal farm policies that favor agribusiness and punish family farmers. “We’re in a fight over who will control production of our food in this country, and family farmers are the casualties,” says American Raw Milk Producers Association president

Joel Greeno

, a leader of the militant

Dairy Action 2000

campaign. Farmers in New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other states are confronting agribusiness with rallies outside processing plants. Signs on farm-country mailboxes declare, “USDA dairy policies destroy farm families.” Farmers will challenge Congress during a March 20-21

Rally for Rural America

in Washington, DC, organized by thirty farm and religious groups. “This is going to be viewed by historians as a vitally important step for change in farm policy,” says Senator

Paul Wellstone

…. Linking the farm crisis and trade policy, the nation’s second-largest farm group, the

National Farmers Union

, has voted to oppose permanent normal relations with China.

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