Last year, UCSB’s Human Rights Film Festival promised six films over three days of double features. True to its incremental popularity, this year the fest has added on another day, two more features and two short films.
Like previous years, the festival tells two truths. The first, documentaries are still flourishing to cover the stories that our traditional media fail to tell, and second, that women make up a majority of the filmmakers, an inverse situation to that of Hollywood.
Day 1 tackles the clash of tradition and women’s rights. Helga Reidemeister’s “War and Love in Kabul” takes as its center a childhood romance that has never been consummated. Shaima has been married off to someone else, and Hossein is a paraplegic. But now she looks after him in a tense test of family and love. As a doc, there’s more to the story than our initial meeting.
In “Bliss,” based on the novel by Omer Zulfu Livaneli, a young girl is condemned to forced suicide after she loses her virginity. But she botches the attempt, and now her cousin must kill her. But will he?
Day 2 tracks the effect of modern technology in helping or hindering our freedoms. Academy Award nominee “Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country” shows how the increasing availability of small portable video recorders, camera phones and the ability to send digital files worldwide has evened the sociopolitical landscape. Here, this technology is used to smuggle out footage of protesting monks and their brutal repression by the Myanmar government.
On the other hand, the short doc “Tagged” discusses the use of human implanted microchips and their implications, while the “Devil’s Bargain: A Journey into the Small Arms Trade” shows how globalization allows the easy import and export of guns and weapons into the Third World, starting at American trade shows.
The arms trade is terrible, but flowers aren’t necessarily better. In “A Blooming Business,” which opens Day 3, Ton van Zantvoort explores the environmental and human repercussions in the global flower trade. For a quick dose of uplift, the short that follows, “Smile Pinki,” shows two Sri Lankan children born with cleft lips as they struggle from isolation to embrace. Filmmaker Megan Mylan will be in attendance. Day Three ends with the harrowing “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo.” This Sundance-winning documentary, by Lisa F. Jackson, led to a U.N. resolution classifying rape as a weapon of war.
The final day takes on one of the world’s weightiest issues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Encounter Point,” from Ronit Avni, tells the true stories of everyday citizens caught in the middle of the fight as they try to pursue grassroots movements for nonviolence and peace. The doc follows a former Israeli settler, a Palestinian ex-prisoner, a bereaved Israeli mother and a wounded Palestinian bereaved brother, as they try to find a different way to live.
The festival leaves us with “Garbage Dreams,” the end result of all our consumerism. The world’s largest “garbage village” rests on the outskirts of Cairo. Filmmaker Mai Iskander follows three young men as they attempt to change their destinies.
Co-sponsored by the Fund for Santa Barbara and Human Rights Watch Santa Barbara Committee, the festival offers a fine full-festival deal on tickets.
THE FIFTH ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA HUMAN RIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL
When: 7 and 9 p.m. double features April 8, 15, 22 and 26
Where: UCSB’s Campbell Hall
Cost: $10 general, $6 students per evening; $20 general, $16 students festival pass
Information: (805) 893-3535 or www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu