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October 18, 2006

UN film festival offers little-seen perspectives on global human rights issues

Thirty-one documentaries examining human rights and other issues around the globe will be screened on campus during the ninth annual United Nations Association Film Festival Oct. 25-29.

The films will address topics ranging from an examination of what motivates bystanders to act in the face of genocide to the lives of street children in Peru, brutality in American prisons and the clash between Maoist rebels and the monarchy in Nepal. "Sparks of Humanity" is the theme of this year's festival, which is sponsored by the Stanford Film Society and the United Nations Association Midpeninsula Chapter.

The festival, which will include works from 30 countries including Afghanistan, Chechnya, Ethiopia, Iraq, Sierra Leone, China, Colombia, Nicaragua and Senegal, offers campus audiences the opportunity to see films rarely shown to audiences in the United States, said Jasmina Bojic, festival founder and director. The festival also provides outlets for filmmakers working in areas where film distribution can pose challenges, she said. Bojic is a lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities program and the Continuing Studies Program at Stanford.

Even in presenting films about widely covered topics, such as the conflict between Israel and Palestine, festival organizers try to provide audiences with unusual and less-than-obvious perspectives, she said. Lessons in Fear, for example, takes a behind-the-scenes look at how ordinary schoolchildren in Israel and Palestine are educated (Oct. 28).

"We are constantly amazed at the fresh ideas and angles that filmmakers use to elucidate interesting corners" of human rights stories, said Bojic, who founded the festival in 1998 to honor the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As the development of smaller and digital cameras have made filmmaking more affordable, the variety of topics and approaches to filmmaking presented at the festival has grown, she said. For example, the digital film Rights on the Line: Vigilantes at the Border (Oct. 29) put cameras in the hands of human rights activists and residents of border communities in Mexico and the United States, she said.

The festival will open Wednesday, Oct. 25, with five documentaries, including They Chose China, which tells the story of a group of American soldiers held in POW camps who refused repatriation to the United States at the end of the Korean War. Films on subsequent days are grouped into four themes: women's issues on Thursday, Oct. 26; war, inner city violence and efforts toward peace on Friday, Oct. 27; environmental, health and children's issues on Saturday, Oct. 28; and issues of liberty and security on Sunday, Oct. 29.

A roundtable discussion, "Fair Use, Free Speech and Digital Future in Documentary Filmmaking," will be held Saturday, Oct. 28, at 3:15 p.m. in Annenberg Auditorium; it is open to the public free of charge.

Stanford undergraduates may attend the campus festival at no cost. Admission for other students is $5 per film session; tickets for the general public are $8 per film session. Festival passes for all campus screenings are $30 for students and $60 general admission. Tickets also are available for an opening reception and closing party. Tickets can be purchased at the festival, at the Stanford Ticket Office in Tresidder Union, at Kepler's Bookstore at 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park and at the United Nations Association store at 552 Emerson St. in Palo Alto.

The festival has grown to include a traveling festival with screenings planned throughout Northern California and in other states. Pre-festival screenings will be held in San Francisco and East Palo Alto. A complete schedule of screenings is available at



Barbara Palmer, News Service: (650) 724-6184,

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