Recap: USF’s Annual Human Rights Film Festival 2021

Namratha Kethineni

Staff Writer

In a normal year, USF’s annual Human Rights Film Festival consists of numerous days of packed rooms across campus, and projections of films onto big screens, followed by discussion with the artists who made the films. This year, however, students and faculty tuned in from all over the world on Zoom.

Media studies professor Mark Taylor, one of the organizers of the festival this year, said, “The media studies department decided that we were going to carry on and overcome the challenge of doing the festival online.”

The festival featured a total of five films, each with their own niche within the broad topic of human rights. The films were available for streaming online during specific times throughout the week, and these streamings were accompanied by Zoom Q&A sessions with the directors of the films and USF professors who helped make the event possible. 

Taylor said gaining online streaming rights to the films was a difficult process, since generally when films are displayed at festivals, the distributors only have to worry about having them available in a specific location. “Film distributors wanted to limit access but we needed to keep it open because our students are distributed around the globe right now,” he said.  “That was a really big concern for us. We were working very closely with ITS [to make this possible].” 

The first film, “Institutions of Fear” was directed by Montsé Armengou and Ricard Belis. It exposes the lives of children in Spain, locked in orphanages and religious schools during 1977. This film was streamed Tuesday, Feb. 23 followed by a Q&A with director Armengou and USF professors Aránzazu Borrachero and Pedro Lange Churión. 

“Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America” was shown the next day, followed by a Q&A with Director Tom Shepard and USF media studies professor Karina Hodoyan. It illuminates the untold stories of LGBT refugees who have had to leave their tumultuous countries behind to start a new life in the United States. The film is available on DVD, Blue Ray, or Good Docs for streaming. 

The last three films were shown together on the final day of the festival.  “La Lucha Sigue” directed by Sam Vinal, was about the work of various social movement organizations. “Belly of the Beast” directed by Erika Cohn, was centered around exposing modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons, and is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime along with the last film “Couper Was Here,” directed by Nicole Foley, which was about an unhoused woman who supports herself using small monthly disability checks in San Francisco. The film directors, environmental and media studies students, USF professor Lara Bazelon, and Jackie Ramos — an instructor for the McCarthy Center’s Community Empowerment Activists — all took part in the Q&A sessions.  

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