USF’s long running Human Rights Film Festival, organized by Cine Acción, will soon be celebrating its 15th anniversary of bringing movies that address human rights abuses to campus. The festivities are set to kick off the week after spring break on Thursday, March 23, with the three-day affair continuing into the weekend.
The festival’s showrunner, Susana Kaiser, helped found the event and has been a part of the team that organizes the festival for the past 15 years. Below are some of the standouts from the selection of films from this year’s crop, with commentary from Prof. Kaiser.
The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis
This is one of two Argentinian films on the docket, “and there’s a reason why,” said Kaiser. “We always play movies from different parts, but March 24 is the date of the 44th anniversary of the military coup in Argentina, so I really wanted to make it a point on having two films from Argentina,” she continued.
“The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis” is a short 17-minute film and is set during the military dictatorship of Argentina in the late 1970s. A man, Francisco Sanctis, is given information, two names and an address, of two people sentenced to “disappear.” As someone without any political ties who is stunned by the urgency of the situation, Sanctis must make the decision of either “risking his own life to warn these strangers or remain quietly blanketed under the eyes of the dictatorship,” reads the description of the film.
The other Argentinian film Kaiser managed to include in the festival is “Finding Mabel,” the story of an American woman who journeys to her parents’ homeland of Argentina to piece together the story of her namesake, Mabel Damora.
Through interviews and investigations, she learns about Mabel and contextualizes the dark years that claimed her life and the 30,000 like her during Argentina’s “Dirty War.” Director Eileen Mabel Abarraca, also the protagonist of the documentary, is a Bay Area resident who will be joining the audience for the screening and a subsequent Q&A once the movie is over.
Surviving International Boulevard
Directed by USF alumnus Sian Taylor Gowan, “Surviving International Boulevard” is a short film about the complexities of child sex trafficking in nearby Oakland, CA. Driving along International Boulevard’s dark streets, Gowan accompanies a mother, who recounts her own wild determination to rescue her 15-year-old daughter from a sex trafficker “boyfriend”. “Night after night, combing the dangerous streets of East Oakland, she never gives up on her child,” reads the description for the movie.
Gowan, who will be in attendance for a Q&A after the film, has extensively toured her film, beginning with a screening last October at UC Berkeley and concluding with an appearance at Bare Bones Int’l Film & Music Festival in Muskogee, Oklahoma on April 18. Before arriving for its debut on USF’s campus, the film also traveled to Seattle for the Social Justice Film Festival, to Wisconsin for the Green Bay Film Festival, and to Los Angeles for the LA World Int’l Film Festival.
Berta Vive (Berta Lives)
In 2016 Berta Caceres, a Honduran environmental activist, was assassinated in her home after years against her life. Berta Vive is a documental from Katia Lara who chronicles the unified struggle for “decolonization in a country that is being sold to transnational capital and where death is delivered in so many different ways,” said Lara.
“She was an incredible environmental leader and feminist, who was also indigenous to Honduras, and she was assassinated one year ago on March the second” said Kaiser, who mentioned how relevant the movie will be to members of the audience, especially with recent findings that the squadron who assassinated her might have received training from the U.S. military.
Sonita Alizadeh’s dream is to become a famous rapper. Like her idols, Eminem and Nas, her passion is music. But in a world where women are prohibited from singing and are sold into marriage, and everyday is a fight against poverty and an escape from the violence of the Taliban, where does Sonita stand in pursuit of her dreams?
Director Rokhsareh Maghami received the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary at the 2016 Sundance Festival for his film. She is also set to attend at the screening inside Presentation Theater to answer questions from the audience. Her appearance on-campus was unexpected, said Kaiser, who was contacted by Maghami a couple of weeks back while she was in Los Angeles representing the film at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Her trip to the U.S. was put into question a few weeks back however when President Trump initiated an executive order banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, with Maghami’s native Iran making the list.
“She sent me an email like two weeks ago and said ‘Hey Susana I see that you’re showing my film, and with the ban lifted I got a visa to visit California for the Spirit Awards’ and that she would be in San Francisco for the time of the festival,” said Kaiser.
USF alumnus Emily Singer Chapman is a producer on “Oklahoma City,” a film about the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, when Timothy McVeigh, a former soldier deeply influenced by the literature and ideas of the radical right, parked a truck with a five-ton fertilizer bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City. Moments later, 168 people were killed and 675 were injured in the blast, which would come to be know as the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history. The film was made with the help of PBS who featured it under their American Experience movie series, TV’s most watched history series.
While the list of student shorts is still being compiled, one of the films that will be shown has already been featured at Voices from the Margins, the nation’s largest social justice film fest for college students. “Made in the U.S.A.” was one of five films chosen for the official selection of the film festival, and was directed and produced by two USF undergraduate students, Melissa Oei and Asia Hayes.
Thursday, March 23
11:00 a.m. Student Shorts
12:30 p.m. Berta Vive/berta Lives
1:45 p.m. Sonita
4:00 p.m. Finding Mabel
5:45 p.m. Surviving International Boulevard
6:45 p.m. Oklahoma City
Friday, March 24
11:00 a.m. Do Not Resist
1:00 p.m. Outrun
3:00 p.m. Hooligan Sparrow
5:15 p.m. The Long Night Of Francisco Sanctis
7:05 p.m. National Bird
Saturday, March 25
12:00 p.m. Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump)
2:00 p.m. When Two Worlds Collide
4:30 p.m. The Prison In Twelve Landscapes
6:30 p.m. Sneak Preview of: Adios Amor – The Search For Maria Moreno
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF CINE ACCIÓN