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The ACT Human Rights Film Festival is celebrating its fifth edition in 2020 with an ambitious nine days of films, parties, conversations and more. Twenty-six documentary films representing stories from 21 countries and five continents will make their Fort Collins appearance April 3-11.
As festival plans coalesce, ACT Producer Greg Dickinson notes, “The power of globalization allows us to share these stories and to connect with filmmakers from around the world. Of course, the risks and harms of globalization are also at the heart of this festival. The recent worries about COVID-19 will affect the festival.”
The ACT Human Rights Film Festival is committed to protecting the health and safety of all its guests. Organizers take seriously the potential and real impacts of COVID-19. As festival staff and CSU leaders continue to assess the situation, ACT will carefully consider each festival event as it moves forward with 2020 plans.
“We hold dear our festival’s purpose: to awaken, connect and transform individuals and communities near and far,” says Beth Seymour, ACT managing director. “We do this by sharing brave stories of resilience and resistance from all corners of the globe.”
“Human rights films put a ‘face’ on statistics, bring history ‘alive,’ and encourage a more dynamic form of empathetic understanding or participation than other types of cultural production,” says Artistic Director Professor Scott Diffrient. “ACT is raising the bar in terms of the quality of our overall program, as well as the trust that we put in our audience to appreciate the value of motion pictures that — to their credit — do not offer ‘easy’ solutions to the world’s problems.”Diffrient says the films selected for this year’s festival are not only some of the best films of the past year, but are among the most powerful examples of human rights cinema ACT has programmed over its five-year history.
Opening night celebrates peace, unity
The festival commences Friday, April 3, with a celebratory opening night reception in the Lory Student Center Theatre lobby and features light appetizers and a complimentary pint of Screening Session IPA, crafted especially for ACT by Odell Brewing Co. The reception will be followed by a screening of the highly successful and inspiring film Gay Chorus Deep South by director David Charles Rodrigues.
Gay Chorus Deep South follows the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus as it embarks on a “peace and unity” tour of the American South in response to the wave of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws and divisive 2016 election.
ACT continues nonstop on April 4 and 5 at The Lyric with six feature-length documentaries; five of the six have never previously played in Colorado. Two of the films recently debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, including Once Upon a Time in Venezuela and Collective. The former is a prophetic ode to Venezuela’s decline and corruption viewed through an ethnographic view of the small village of Congo Mirador. Collective follows investigative journalists who uncover massive corruption in the Romanian health-care system and governmental response to crisis.
Prison For Profit will be making its North American premiere following a highly successful reception at the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam last November. The film exposes a for-profit multinational security company that administers prisons and offers other security services throughout the world – including here in Colorado.
On Monday, April 6, Colorado State University will be on the big screen in the world premiere of the short film “Robert’s Village,” directed by Brian Buss and featuring CSU’s Robert Serunjogi, Laura Schreck, Brian Jones, Sheila Ferguson and others. The film showcases how starting from a single conversation, CSU teams came together and built a school for children in Uganda.
“This year, ACT is showing something new every day of the nine-day festival,” Seymour says.
“As a nod to celebrating our fifth anniversary, we decided to program more films than we ever have. Plus, there were so many amazing films we considered, we wanted to make as many available to our audiences as possible.”
The CSU Alumni Association joins ACT on Tuesday, April 7, for a special Alumni Night Out event with the screening of Hungry to Learn by Geeta Gandbhir. The film follows three collegiate students as they negotiate the difficulties of food insecurity and college. Alumni are invited to join and register for a pre-film reception through the Alumni Association, and all audiences are invited to the film. Rams Against Hunger and CSU’s mobile food pantry will join to discuss CSU efforts to address the realities of hunger at CSU.
The festival will also feature two short film programs that will collectively screen 11 short documentaries. The film topics range from racial representation in the book series The Babysitters Club to human rights questions raised at the U.S.-Mexican border and the 2019 Hong Kong protests.
Sundance ‘thriller’ closes festival
Closing weekend films will showcase stories from Sudan, the Philippines, Syria, Cuba, South Africa, Europe, Chile and the United States.
Scheduled for Friday, April 10, Khartoum Offside by Marwa Zein will make its Colorado premiere. The film is a portrait of women soccer players in Khartoum, Sudan, who dream of playing on a national team in the World Cup despite bans enacted by the Islamic military government.
Four films will close out the festival on April 11 in the Lory Student Center Theatre, including the beautifully captured Havana, from on High by Pedro Ruiz. The film explores central Havana’s housing shortage and introduces the dwellers who have created homes on the city’s rooftops. The film does not editorialize or pander to typical portrayals of Cuba, and instead rests in the power of ordinary citizens’ daily travails.
Closing night will conclude with a screening of Influence by South African co-directors Diana Neille and Richard Poplak. The film premiered at Sundance in January and is so new it does not yet have a trailer.
“Influence moves with all the impact and intrigue of a thriller,” Seymour says. “I was left reeling in the story and know our audiences will be awed by its power and implications. In any year, but especially in an election year, this film is a must-see experience. It ruptures the naivety most of us have in consuming and accessing news and information.”
The ACT Human Rights Film Festival will conclude with a closing night reception in the Lory Student Center. Odell Brewing will provide the festival its fifth edition of Screening Session IPA, and heavy appetizers and desserts will be served.
The complete festival schedule is posted on the ACT website, as are full film descriptions and trailers. Purchase tickets or festival passes in advance online at www.actfilmfest.org. Tickets may also be purchased at the door, pending availability, although door prices are higher. For the latest festival information subscribe to ACT’s email newsletter at https://actfilmfest.colostate.edu/newsletter/ or follow ACT on social media @actfilmfest.
ACT is produced by the Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University with generous support from CSU partners, including the College of Liberal Arts, Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts, Women & Philanthropy, Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Endowment, Honor’s Program, CSU’s Alumni Association; the School of Music, Theatre and Dance; and the departments of Economics, Philosophy, English, Sociology, Journalism and Media Communication, History, Art and Art History, and Languages, Literatures and Cultures.
Off-campus partners include the City of Fort Collins – Fort Fund, The Lyric, Colorado Creative Industries, Eye Center of Northern Colorado, Bohemian Foundation, Odell Brewing, KUNC 91.5, The Elizabeth Hotel, the Colorado Office of TV, Media and Film, and dozens of individual supporters.