The local United Nations Association chapter expands its flagship film festival.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Our world just got bigger.
For the past eight years, Monterey Bay Chapter of the years United Nations Association president Larry Levine and his small crew of volunteers have hosted a traveling festival of international documentaries. This year marks the first time they will produce an expanded four-day festival of 14 films at the Golden State Theatre beginning on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 13.
With this expanded lineup comes a new name – The Ninth Annual International Film Festival presented by the Monterey Bay Chapter of the United Nations Association. It’s a mouthful, and it signifies a new independence and an increased visibility. In fact, the city of Monterey recently proclaimed the week of Nov. 9-16 “International Film Festival Week.”
Despite this growth, the local UNA chapter is committed to keeping the festival accessible. Admission to the festival is $5 a day for the general public and free for students. “Our purpose is to raise consciousness,” Levine says, “not funds.”
For this year’s festival, a 15-person selection committee spent months choosing dozen-plus outstanding international documentary films out of a pool of 60.
“We had a tough time selecting the 14 films from so many excellent submissions,” he says. “Although we’re heavier on human rights and environment topics this year, rather than war or security, it’s a very diverse selection.”
This year’s films also provide deeply affecting views of countries like India, China, Russia, South Africa, the Philippines, Tibet, Palestine/Israel, Bangladesh, Chile and the United States. Here’s a look at what’s in store:Thursday, Nov. 13, 7pm MADE IN CHINA (53 MINUTES)
The festival kicks off with the story of Heqing and Heping Fan, a Chinese couple forced to leave their rural way of life and move into a booming industrial center to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day. For 45 cents an hour, they make bathroom products for export in a plant south of Shanghai. The Fans’ fate illustrates their country’s industrial revolution, perhaps the largest, most rapid migration in human history. Described as both an elegy for a lost way of life and a grassroots view of what could become the world’s most powerful economy, Made in China provides new meaning to the ubiquitous labels on products we buy every day.CHILDREN OF LENINGRADSKY (37 MINUTES)
Homeless children populate the Moscow train station of Leningradsky. Every day hordes of busy commuters ignore them. Some give them a little spare change. Some ask them to come home with them and have sex. A few good people offer to help. But, as one boy in this heartbreaking film says, “There aren’t too many good people left.” Nominated for the 2004 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject, this film is an unflinching look at a group of these homeless children. One of the directors, Hanna Polak, has traveled all the way to Monterey from Warsaw, Poland, to be on hand for the festival.ONE WATER (68 MINUTES)
Filmed in 15 far-flung countries, One Water explores the world’s water crisis. It’s an affecting visual and musical poem about how water touches human lives, specifically how our relationship with water is changing due to its increased scarcity. It’s an issue that Monterey County residents are not unfamiliar with and the film urges all countries and cultures to recognize this major global crisis as their own. It features a musical score performed by the Russian National Orchestra, and commentary by the Dalai Lama, Robert Kennedy Jr., and others.Friday, Nov. 14, 7pm QUIET REVOLUTION: KERALA (26 MINUTES)
This film explores the success of a community literacy project in Kavalam, a village in Kerala, India. Prior to the project, it was estimated that 66 percent of the population of India was illiterate, the majority of those being women. In 1990, a one-year project to teach all Keralans to read was implemented. The project enrolled 350,000 instructors for Kerala’s million citizens. I was actually in Kavalam in 1995, the year after this film was made, and saw the effects of this project firsthand. An inspirational tale of what is possible.THE DEBT OF DICTATORS (46 MINUTES)
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel says that transnational banks “know the price of everything, but have no values.” This film exposes the lending of billions of dollars by multinational banks and international financial institutions to brutal dictators throughout the world and reveals the resulting impoverishment.CORAL CONNECTIONS (15 MINUTES)
This film by Monterey’s own Sea Studios Foundation vividly illustrates how the 4.7 million people who visit the Mexican Riviera Maya every year impact the entire region. It underscores the effects of uncontrolled development and personal behavior on the local society, the peninsula’s water system and the Mesoamerican reef.STEALING AMERICA: VOTE BY VOTE (90 MINUTES)
The perfect selection for an election year, this film is a withering case against allowing computerized voting systems to take over our election process. The film highlights how they’re easy to manipulate and hard to police. This sobering film brings together behind-the-scenes perspectives from 2004’s presidential election – plus startling stories from key races in 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2006.Saturday, Nov. 15, 7pm THE IRON WALL (52 MINUTES)
This controversial film asserts that the establishment of Israeli settlements in the West Bank over the last 40 years is a strategy for permanent occupation of the territory. Produced by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees and Palestinians for Peace and Democracy, it was the “Official Selection” of the Al-Jazeera Television Production Festival. Following a timeline of the settlements and examining their effect on the peace process, it features interviews with noted peace activists and political analysts, both Israeli and Palestinian.TITANS OF THE CORAL SEA (17 MINUTES)
This film touches upon another issue familiar to Monterey County residents – overfishing. It explores the efforts of the Titan people of Papua New Guinea’s efforts to protect the coral reefs they have been fishing for more than 40,000 years. As the demands of the modern world clash with their traditional ways, their environment is collapsing and the fish are disappearing from the Titan people’s waters.QUIET REVOLUTION: GRAMEEN BANK (28 MINUTES)
Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries of the world, yet the innovative Grameen Bank boasts a 98 percent loan repayment rate. The film illustrates this phenomenon through the life of Jostna Begum, a young woman living in the village of Churain, Bangladesh.THE JUDGE AND THE GENERAL (82 MINUTES)
Many Chileans refer to “the other 9/11” – the Sept. 11, 1973 coup led by General Augusto Pinochet against democratically elected Salvador Allende. The coup left thousands of Chileans dead, tortured or “disappeared.” This film follows Juan Guzman, the conservative judge and Pinochet supporter, who is assigned to investigate and then prosecute the infamous former dictator of Chile.Sunday, Nov. 16, 2pm DREAMS DIE HARD (36 MINUTES)
Not long ago, my son asked me if there were still slaves in the world. Unfortunately, I had to tell him yes. “But not in America, right?” he asked. This haunting film explores the fates of four of the estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people who are trafficked into the United States each year to be used as slaves.IN SEARCH OF INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE (66 MINUTES)
Sixty years ago, with the Nuremberg Charter, the world first said, “Never again.” But these proved empty words for the victims of the Cold War years. The superpowers couldn’t agree on a universal code to punish war criminals. Tyrants ruled with impunity. Thanks to the echoing voices of victims over the decades, the International Criminal Court was established in The Hague in 2002. So far 100 countries have signed on to the Court’s mandate. However, the world’s remaining superpower, the United States, is strongly opposed.FIRE UNDER THE SNOW (75 MINUTES)
In 1959, the Chinese communist army arrested Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan Buddhist monk since childhood. He spent the next 33 years in prison for the “crimes” of demonstrating peacefully and refusing to falsely denounce his teacher as an Indian spy. He was tortured, starved and forced to perform hard labor. He watched his nation and culture destroyed and his teachers, friends and family displaced, jailed or killed by the Chinese occupiers. Despite this, he remained unbroken.