Special Report: 9th Annual United Nations Association Film Festival - 2006

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
9th Annual United Nations Association Film Festival Report: “Sparks of Humanity”
Presented by The Stanford Film Society
October 2006

The Stanford Film Society presents the 9th annual United Nations Association Film Festival with the theme “Sparks of Humanity.” It runs from Wednesday October 25 to Sunday, October 29 at Stanford University with other special screenings in San Francisco and Palo Alto, listed on the website at: www.unaff.org

The 9th annual UN Association Film Festival boasts 31 documentaries from around the world about human rights and other social issues. Other special events include an opening night party at 5:30pm with international food, live music by jazz band Potential. On Saturday, October 28 there will be a Roundtable: “Documentaries: Fair Use, Free Speech and Digital Future in Documentary Filmmaking” with a panel speakers. The festival will end with a closing night party with and music.

The films this year are stellar, and you won’t regret seeing any of them. I had the pleasure of seeing all 31 of them, which was pretty close to heaven for this lover of social issues docs. If I had the time, I would like to tell you about each one of them.

One of my favorites was IN THE TALL GRASS; it follows the story of Joanita, a survivor of the Rwanda massacre in 1994 in which a million Tutsis got hacked by machetes at the hands of their neighbors in a matter of three months. Joanita is seeking the contrition of the neighbor responsible for killing her husband and children in a village justice hearing. She feels that if she receives a confession and an apology from the killer she can forgive and move toward reconciliation. The filmmakers’ access to the characters is stunning in this beautifully filmed small story, which allows the outsider to begin to get a glimpse of understanding of the chaotic genocide. It is a compelling, well-paced story with some surprising elements about an event which I’m not sure no one will ever fully comprehend.

THE BLOOD OF YINGZHOU DISTRICT hones in on the lives of a handful of AIDS orphans in the Yingzhou District of China. Children whose parents had recently died from AIDS are filmed over a year period. With these small stories we learn about ignorance about HIV Aids leads to the children being ostracized and discriminated against, even by their teachers at school. The beautiful and sparse cinematography and verite footage draw us in to these children’s lives and makes them difficult to forget.

BEYOND THE CALL by director/producer Adrian Belic, is the story of three American men who donate their time and money to pursue charitable work around the world, venturing into war zones when other humanitarian workers are fleeing them. This is a moving story of how these three men get hooked on helping others in need and how it, in turn, nurtures them.

In the 13 minute short, INTERVIEW WITH AN EXECUTIONER, Amnesty International’s Terry McMillan talks with Don Cabana, former warden from Parchmen Penitentiary in Mississippi, who has pulled the switch on several death row inmates. Cabana establishes that he is not a “mamby pamby” guy who wants to give the inmates a break because of their difficult childhoods, but that he has a deep understanding of what it is to put someone to death, since he is the one who had to do it. He says that each time he had to put someone to death it “killed a little part of him.”

Nick London’s AMERICA’S BRUTAL PRISONS doesn’t pull punches in exposing some of the abuses that occur in our own prisons; some of the torture and even deaths are compared to what happened in Abu Graib. The interviews with mothers who lost their sons are chilling; these practices are something that all citizens in our country need to know about.

The 13-minute short, LIMA’S STREETS, and other shorts by Marcelo Burkin with sumptuous cinematography, takes us in to the world of children living in poverty in Peru and how they are thrust into a world of having to scrap to make their own way. Each of these films is moving and memorable.

INDEPENDENT INTERVENTION is the stunning treatise that exposes the deficiencies in our mainstream media’s coverage of the Iraq War and gives us a glimpse of what is really happening in Iraq and how some Independent media outlets are covering it. I’ll be interviewing director Tonje Hessen Schie next week. This is an important film, which exposes the corporate controlled media in America.

There are 31 films in all; please see the website for descriptions, show times and venues for this week and next, at: www.unaff.org

See you at the United Nations Association Film Festival with the theme “Spartks of Humanity!” For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield.

Air date: Wednesday, October 18, 2006.
More Information:
9th Annual United Nations Association Film Festival - 2006
31 Social Issues Documentaries