The Monterey Bay Chapter of the United Nations Association is hosting its 20th Annual International Documentary Film Festival this weekend, and it keeps its sensible format: 11 films, across three nights, at two locations – Middlebury Institute of International Studies (a free opening night) and Osio Theater ($10 each night).
The Separated follows Honduran asylum-seeker Anita and her 5-year-old son Jenri, separated at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas, and the immigration lawyer, Jodi Goodwin, who fights to reunite them. It looks to put names, faces and emotions to the unwieldy numbers of people suffering this disgraceful immigration enforcement practice.
Kofi and Lartey is a film about two boys from Agbogbloshie, Ghana (a notorious automobile and electronic scrap and dump site), who use a camera to document their squalid home and its beautiful residents.
Irina Patkanian directed the 16-minute animated documentary film Little Fiel, about Mozambican artist Fiel dos Santos, who creates sculptures from decommissioned guns. The film tells the story about Santos’ creative family before a 16-year civil war swept his brothers into war. But even in this film about an artist of meager means turning his country’s suffering into art, his story is treated like fodder for a charming indie stop motion film that seems delighted with its own creativity.
So many of the films are about poor people of color, their suffering, their struggles, their surviving against powerful forces, while the filmmakers are uniformly white, with Western world privileges. That’s not necessarily a knock on the films. They promote compassionate perspectives of the problems they mine.
But the films, the subjects, the filmmakers, the audience, they are all examples of the bigger systemic injustices that they all, in their own way, struggle with: Many people in the world have less because other people have so much more.
This is a vital use of such resources.
Because the sight of a place like Agbogbloshie should accompany our understanding of buying devices and gadgets. Because the sound of kids crying for their parent should accompany our news stories of family separation policy.
The format breaks up the films into three blocks per night. That’s good. It will take some time to metabolize these urgent and heavy stories.
20TH INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL7pm Oct. 24 at Irvine Auditorium, 499 Pierce St., Monterey, free; 6:30pm Oct. 25-26 at Osio Theater, 350 Alvarado St., Monterey, $10/night. unamontereybay.org