The 10th annual Human Rights Film Festival, which happened March 29 to the 31, had the largest participation from the San Francisco community this year. Some screenings had over a hundred people at including USF students, professors and staff, and alumni, students from various universities and community members at Presentation Theatre.
“This year we had a broader public than usual, more people from the community. It was a different year in that sense,” said Media Studies Professor Susana Kaiser, one of the main organizers of the film festival.
The larger community turnout may have been due to the increased advertising of the event.
“We had more help than ever from the other departments of the University and we had the chance to promote the festival on the radio and the television,” Kaiser said.
Among the people who heard about the festival through off-campus media was San Francisco State University student Alonso de Lima, 22.
Originally from Brazil, de Lima said, “The whole idea of the festival is very interesting, I especially liked the Q&As, there was always important discussions go ing on.”
The festival featured twelve films, five student shorts, and Q&As with several producers, directors and USF professors. Darren Dean, producer of “Kinyarwanda”, a film about the Rwandan genocide, spoke about the incredible journey of making and promoting the film.
“The movie is based on a true story, we wrote the script based on history and on stories told by our crew,” said Dean during the Q&A. He also highlighted the importance of hosting events like the Human Rights Film Festival. “I want young people to be educated about issues related to human rights, so they can share this information with their peers, their families, their churches, their governments,” said Dean.
Among the themes of the presented films were homophobia, Latin American dictatorships, sex trafficking, the Iranian protests of 2009 and the Holocaust. The main focus, however, were social movements, police repression and counterterrorism, as seen in “Better this World” and “If a Tree Falls”, the latter being the Oscar-nominated film that closed the event.
Professor Kaiser said that when the festival began ten years ago, the selection of the movies was made through the Human Rights Watch traveling festival selection, yet Kaiser said, “Eventually people started to come to us and show different films, and we realized there were a lot of films that weren’t part of the Human Rights Watch selection that we could use.” Kaiser said the festival tries to include as many different regions and issues as possible although some subjects are always repeated.
“We always have something about gender and LGBTQ, something about Latin America, and about state violence and repression, for example,” she said.
The event was not limited to movie screenings. In the front tables were Human Rights organization pamphlets, petitions and postcards. Jewelry and purses were sold to help a family in Uganda, and Amnesty International representatives promoted a student scholarship in the Bay Area. The public was encouraged to answer a survey regarding their opinions about the festival and provide suggestions for the years to come.
“I’m glad that USF has a festival like this, it’s so important,” said USF International studies major and film minor Michael Kuba, 22. Yet after watching movies Friday and Saturday, he said, “All the movies selected are great, but I saw only one narrative (Kinyarwanda). Next festival, I’d like to see a better balance between documentaries and narratives.”
Other students said the three-day event gave them the chance to learn about human rights through films and discussions.
“The festival is an eye-opener. You get to see how important human rights are and it makes you want to fight for rights and help other people,” said art history and design major Christianne Grace Mendoza, 19, a USF exchange student from the Philippines.