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Stanford Report, October 9, 2002

Annual U.N. Film Festival to feature gritty world issues

BY LISA TREI

Twenty-seven documentaries portraying aspects of humanity from countries as diverse as Vietnam and Canada will be screened on campus during the fifth annual United Nations Association Film Festival from Oct. 24 to 27.

Based on the theme "Humanity Is Indivisible," the festival focuses on portraying issues of concern to the United Nations to help provide a better understanding of global problems. Organized by the Stanford Film Society and the United Nations Association Midpeninsula Chapter, the festival shows films that are rarely screened for public audiences because they are often too political for commercial theatrical release, according to festival founder and director Jasmina Bojic, an instructor in Continuing Studies.

"In my teaching experience, the best way for students to connect with difficult political issues is through visual images," she said. "Instead of giving them Hollywood stories, we give them real facts." Since 1998, the festival has grown into one of the largest documentary events in the world, she added.

This year, festival jury members selected films from 26 countries from more than 220 submissions worldwide. They range from the Academy Award-winning Thoth, a piece about a multiracial street performer in New York City, to The Blood of Earth, a film that portrays the U'Wa Indians' struggle for survival in northeast Colombia.

The festival also includes a four-minute video titled The World As We Know It by communication Professor Kristine Samuelson. The piece is one of 13 documentary and experimental works selected for a screening called "Underground Zero" that will be shown at 4:16 p.m. Oct. 26 in Annenberg Auditorium. Samuelson said that a week after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Bay Area filmmakers Jay Rosenblatt and Caveh Zahedi asked 150 colleagues to create short works related to the terrorist attacks and their aftermath. "We were asked to respond in any way we wished," said Samuelson, who made the film with her husband, John Haptas, a Law School alumnus. Music Professor Chris Chafe composed the music, she added.

The video portrays a decommissioned Titan missile site and views of the world from space. Interviews of three people who experienced the two World Wars and the Vietnam War precede harrowing reports from National Public Radio documenting the attack on the World Trade Center. "The notion is, here we go again, here is the first war of the 21st century," Samuelson said.

Stanford undergraduates may attend the festival at no cost. Other students pay $5 per film session, and tickets for the general public cost $8. A festival pass for all 11 sessions on campus costs $40. Tickets can be purchased at the festival, at Kepler's Bookstore on 1010 El Camino in Menlo Park and at the UNA Store on 552 Emerson St. in Palo Alto.

Pre-festival screenings will be held in three locations in San Francisco on Oct. 14, 15 and 16. For more information, visit the festival's website at www.unaff.org.