Section: archive

Film festival showcases global human rights issues

By Lili Martinez

The newly re-formed Kenyon Film Society (KFS) has teamed up with the Gund Gallery to bring to campus four films highlighting human rights around the globe.

Each year, Human Rights Watchs Traveling Film Festival offers a selection of films from their New York and London festivals to groups who would like to purchase licenses and screen the films at a festival of their own. KFS and the Gund Gallery selected four of these films to screen in the coming month. Beginning this past Monday with Salaam Dunk, a documentary about an Iraqi womens basketball team from the American University in Iraq, the festival kicked off to a mid-sized crowd at the Gund Gallery Community Foundation Theater.

Director of the Gund Gallery Natalie Marsh explained the decision to team up with the KFS to hold the film festival, which will be an annual event beginning this year. [The KFS] approached the Gallery with broad interest in developing more film programming on campus, she said in an email. We loved hearing that the KFS would be reconstituted and wanted to assist while also trying to link important films to other conversations on campus, whether part of an academic program or other contemporary issues or cultural debates.

Isabelle Wheeler 16, who was instrumental in reinvigorating the KFS, said the decision to team with the Gund Gallery and host the festival was organic. The Gallery was able to provide substantial funding to organize the festival, and the KFS, whose debut this year came with the successful French Film Festival, helped recruit groups to co-sponsor the films and advertise.

Each film has several co-sponsors, usually campus groups that have some interest in or relationship with the film they are helping to promote. We thought it would be really nice if we could have an organization present each film. Thats always the way to get an audience for those things, Wheeler said. You can advertise as much as you want but its hard to tap into the people who actually go to stuff. We picked the movies in terms of what we thought would be more interesting to campus and what would adhere to each group that would be presenting it.

Salaam Dunk, the first in the series of four films, was co-sponsored by the Kenyon womens basketball team and Unity House; organizers also collaborated with the Asia Society. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Arabic Jennifer Nichols introduced the film. She said she was happy with the turnout, noting that the entire Ladies basketball team was there. I was happy to see that so many people came, not just people I know are interested in this particular area of study, but people who maybe this is kind of their introduction to that area of the world, Nichols said.

Marsh said the Gallery has high hopes for future iterations of the festival. In future years, I hope to see interested faculty members assist in the curatorial selections for the series, she said. She also encouraged students to attend the festival and broaden their horizons. It is important for us all to know more about the otherwise silent struggles, large and small, of people and societies around the globe, she said. It is always valuable to be more sensitive to the factors affecting peoples lives. Works of art, whether paintings, photographs or films, ask us to stretch, grow, and see people and their lives in a new way.

The Gallery will screen three more movies on upcoming Mondays: On April 15, Words of Witness, a documentary about a young female journalist in Egypt during the beginning of the 2011 revolution; on April 22, Habibi, a film about two young lovers from Gaza; and on April 29, Reportero, a documentary about journalists in Tijuana, Mexico. All screenings will be at 7 p.m. in the Community Foundation Theater.

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