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"Youth Producing Change" Opens Denver's Human Rights Watch

The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival swings into Denver, Colorado, this May 20 to 26, 2010 in its Traveling Film Festival incarnation. Co-presented with the Denver Film Society, the itinerant Festival culls the highlights of HRWIFF's London and New York programs. It features documentaries and shorts from Armenia, Tibet and Burkino Faso, among other countries whose issues are too often honored in compassion fatigue and less in inquisitive viewing.

To help audiences overcome human rights' subtlest foe, the Denver Film Society and have tapped into the creativity of young people through a program of short films called Youth Producing Change. Seven works generated under its aegis will open this year's HRWFF in the Mile High City.

The driving philosophy of Youth Producing Change is that young people are drawn into human rights battles around the globe, yet their voices are seldom communicated.

Youth Producing Change narratives are drawn from the young lives of their teenaged filmmakers. These searching, original POV's will set the tone for the rest of the HRIWFF, to be held at the Denver Film Society's Starz FilmCenter on the Auraria Campus (900 Auraria Parkway). (The Film Society has an educational partnership with the University of Colorado at Denver’s College of Arts and Media.)

Using digital cameras, the young filmmakers spotlight human rights challenges facing them and their communities, and entertain scenarios of change. For example, festival-goers will meet the animated character of Leila, an African girl whose farmer parents sell her into servitude to feed rest of her family. (Fret not; the film, called Leila, has a happy ending.) Another film, Mozambique, centers on a Mozambican boy who is orphaned by HIV/AIDs, and who copes through unusual resourcefulness.

Immigration themes rear up in several entries, including Thoughts In A Hijab and Noè’s Story. The former is about a young Iranian emigree to the U.S. who wears an Islamic head covering despite its association with oppression back home; and the latter tracks a 15-year-old as he grapples with identity and notions of success in his adaptive country of America.

Other selections are What Courage Means to Me, drawn from the story of a Tibetan nun and former political prisoner who escaped Tibet, and Aquafinito, a look at corporations, profit motives and the diminishing supply of community water. A seventh short, It’s Not About Sex, looks into the causes and preventions of rape.

Following the program, a panel of local educators and Denver teens will comment on the films and talk about human rights issues close to their own lives. The teen discussants are involved in Colorado Youth at Risk's mentoring programs at Manual High School. A party and reception will also accompany the Youth Producing Change screening.

To coincide with HRWIFF, Starz FilmCenter will host a trade show of Denver organizations that work with youth.  These are but a few of the year-round events presented in collaboration with the Denver Film Society, whose flagship event is the Starz Denver Film Festival, now marking its 33rd year. 

Festival tickets and information are available at

Human Rights Watch Film Festival Denver
May 20 to 26, 2010
Denver Film Society
Starz FilmCenter
900 Auraria Parkway
Tivoli Student Union

Denver, CO 80204
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
(303) 595 - 3456 x250

NYC International Film Festival to Debut in Times Square

Times Square may have dodged a car bomb, but now another explosive event is being planned for New York's theater district that's sure to go off. Expect sizzle and smoke August 12 to 19, 2010, when the New York City International Film Festival gets its launch in tourism ground zero.

I just came back from two hours with the man who's behind the plot. Manhattan already has the New York Film Festival and the Tribeca and Gen Art -- whoops, not Gen Art -- and 50 or so other movie pageants, but NYCIFF president and founder Roberto Rizzo says he's now bringing a fresh "opportunity to filmmakers from the USA and around the world to showcase their films in New York City."  

As part of my research, I zig and zag through the Crossroads of the World to meet up with this expectedly peppy soul. And while only an Energizer bunny (with a touch of masochism) could dream of entertaining two million guests in this sweaty swath of humanity -- in August -- his amiable vibe suggests a bon vivant, with a surprisingly even keel.

Rizzo has salt-and-pepper hair and the gravitational pull of an artist, writer and director who also appears in film and television; you'd pick him out of a lineup of character actors playing politicians, prosecutors or gamblers, which are precisely roles he's performed. That it's as easy to picture him in a tux as in denim sums up the public/exclusive, free/premium, filmmaker/pedestrian axis of the fest. This gets me wondering…

"What will your New York festival have that the others don't?" I ask.

"Glamor," he nutshells.

"But Tribeca and Lincoln Center are plenty elegant," I challenge.

"Really?" his eyes bulge.

Now if you've attended Downtown's celebrity-pedigreed affair, you know it hardly lacks for glitz, and few would say the Film Society's Upper West bash is half shabby. But this native of Northern Italy who calls New York home and Argentina second home (among other jet-spanned reaches of the globe), has a vision for his fest. And it's largely la dolce vita.  

Two years ago, Rizzo went to the Cannes Film Festival with his short film Couples, which he wrote and directed. Cannes' unabashed fabulousness left quite an impression, and that's when it came to him: replicate the panache of the Croisette on and around Broadway.

"You dress, you respect the filmmaker, you respect the actors," urges Rizzo. "It's going to be a hot summer, and I want to see people from everywhere enjoying a classy time in New York City."

Even in the silly weather, you'll now have a chance to wear that gown or tuxedo.

Shoving past the pedestrians and the pedicabs, we wend our way to the Hudson Theatre (145 W 44TH Street), where NYCIFF will hold its Opening Night Gala. Champagne, hors d'ouevres and wine will be served to guests who pony up $250 for the pre-screening black-tie reception on the main floor. Upstairs, ticket holders at $100 a pop will enjoy modest hydration and, of course, nourishment for the eyes.  

The Opening Night film will be Lovely, Still. Directed by Nik Fackler, it follows the lighter side of two lonely hearts played by Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn. Both Oscar winners are invited to attend this sequined New York premiere, as is Elizabeth Banks, who also appears in the movie and whom Rizzo met on the set of 30 Rock.

Isabella Rosselini, Eric Thal, Rick Borgia and Steve Dash are among other glittering entities expected to descend on the Red Carpet not unlike the New Year's Eve ball. Live musical performances will precede the Gala screening, with a Mexican recording artist yet to be announced opening for Spanish electro-pop band Horthy. Details of the post-screening party are similarly in the offing.

On the following evening, Oscar laureate Norma Aleandro (The Official Story) will present the North American premiere of her latest film, Paco. Diego Rafecas directed this Argentine drama about a physics teacher (Tomás Fonzi) suspected of narcotrafficking and the efforts of his politician mother (Aleandro) to salvage his fate.

Also during the Festival, Aleandro will unveil Andres Doesn't Want to Take a Nap/Andrés no quiere dormir la siesta, by Daniel Bustamante. In it she portrays a woman whose daughter-in-law is posthumously revealed to have helped the underground resistance during Argentina's military dictatorship and whose grandson is driven to embrace that regime. Aleandro will be on hand to discuss both films, which will betoken Argentina on the occasion of its Bicentennial.

Rizzo already has 20 feature-length works lined up, and there are 60 more to go. With thousands of submissions pouring in from five continents and creators set to attend, he's aiming for the skyscrapers with the Festival, which he hopes will be the highlight of New York's August calendar.

Including short films and music videos, he has lassoed a total of 300 entries to date. One short is Flat Love, narrated by Rossellini and directed by Andrés Sanz, about a man who believes the world is flat, and who falls for a two-dimensional woman at the Museum of Modern Art.

Shorts form the touchstone of NYCIFF, at least in its debut year. This is perhaps as much for expediency sake as it is a programming choice.

As currently envisioned, screenings will run from 7 p.m. to midnight each day of the Festival except Opening Night. A number of these will be full-length movies, mostly presented in Times Square-area theaters, while more fleeting works – matched to the attention spans of pedestrians and tourists – will be displayed al fresco on a huge digital screen by Duffy Square (226 W 47 Street).

"When you go to Cannes, you see the big outdoor screen on the beach," says Rizzo. "But it's only for VIPs." Explaining the glam-for-all ideology behind the Festival, he stresses, "Here anybody can see it."

Though NYCIFF is allegedly the first film festival to showcase free movies in Times Square, it won't be New York's sole source of outdoor, gratis viewing during sultry August. HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival (June through August); Central Park (August 18 to 22); RiverFlicks: Summer on the Hudson (Wednesday and Friday evenings in July and August at Riverside Park South's Pier 1); and Movies with a View: Brooklyn Bridge Park Summer Film Series (Thursday evenings from July 8 to August 27) are some of the competition. (And for nine bucks, movies and music can be had at Rooftop Films May through September).

Yet a cinematic display of NYCIFF's volume is unprecedented for a month when anyone who can board a Jitney does.

The eight-day event will culminate in an Awards Night; like Opening Night, it will take place from 6 p.m. to midnight. The top prize has been christened "Laurel d'Or," for best narrative feature. Juried competitions will additionally honor best works in horror, documentary and shorts categories.  

Panels, parties and industry networking events are in pre-production for the Festival, which may just be the sexiest spectacle to hit Times Square since X-rated movie houses and peep shows lined the Deuce.


For more information:

New York City International Film Festival
August 12 to 19, 2010
Hudson Theatre at Millennium Broadway Hotel 
145 West 44th Street

New York, NY 10036

Duffy Square
226 W 47th Street

New York, NY 10036 




Human Rights Watch Fest Seeks "Accountability and Justice"

Last July, the nonprofit group Human Rights Watch put out a hefty report drawn from its prior two decades of watching dogs in some 20 countries. Called Selling Justice Short, the dossier showed why accountability was a good thing for peace and, if nothing else, could help heal victims by acknowledging their anguish.

For those who didn't read it, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival supplies some visual Cliff's Notes. This year, its documentaries and fictional dramas give witness to human rights violations in 25 countries, and "Accountability and Justice" is its primary theme.

Jointly presented with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the New York edition of HRWFF will take place June 10 to 24, 2010 at the Film Society's Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street).

Now in its 21st go-round, the Festival is a top international showcase for cinema focusing on human rights. Amplifying on current events, selections are as topical as tomorrow's news. Take for example Crude, Joe Berlinger's documentary on the ravages of oil exploitation in Ecuador, which screened at last year's festival, and which again bubbled up in the media around a federal judge's May 2010 ruling to allow Chevron to subpoena more than 600 hours of its footage.

HRWFF is looking especially relevant these days for another reason: the dismal distribution and exhibition climate for independent cinema in general and issue-driven works in particular. Its sold-out screenings and radial word of mouth brings films to audiences who may have few if any other ways to catch them in a theater.

The Balibo Conspiracy is a case in point. Robert Connolly's political thriller about a war correspondent who pokes into the 1975 murders of five journalists in East Timor is being feted as the Benefit Night selection (June 10), yet to date no U.S. distributor has nabbed it.

Adversity can often add to a film's sex appeal, yet Balibo has been hard pressed to parlay its banning in Indonesia into commercial come hither in this country. And not even a quake of earth shattering proportions has launched Raoul Peck’s Haitian drama, Moloch Tropical, onto the "must have" list of stateside distributors. Yet the film will be honored as this year’s Festival Centerpiece. Just as Connolly and special guests will attend the Balibo post-screening discussion and reception, Peck will be on hand to discuss his film.

The official Opening Night screening, on June 11, is 12th & Delaware. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady are back from Jesus Camp with this revelation of the Florida crossing where pro-life and pro-choice facilities push their mandates across from one another. The documentary, which debuted at this year's Sundance Film Festival, was shot during the year when abortionist Dr. George Tiller was assassinated. If that isn't news peg enough, what is?

Presumed Guilty/Presunto culpable
is the Closing Night film. The documentary by Roberto Hernández and Layda Negrete fingers the dysfunctions of Mexico's penal system in its chronicle of a Mexican street vendor mistakenly accused of murder and sentenced to two decades behind prison bars. As with their short documentary, The Tunnel, the filmmakers' intervention led to the protagonist's release from jail. Law and Order may be a closed dossier, but Presumed Guilty is open for business.

Mexico reclaims the screen in Backyard/El traspatio, Carlos Carrera's crime drama about the real murders of young women in Ciudad Juarez. Starring Jimmy Smits and Ana de la Reguera, the film can't hope to top Carrera's 2002 film, The Crime of Father Amaro -- Mexico's biggest box office performer – however, the topic and its link to the police system in that country continue to haunt today's headlines.

Two other titles take on official systems. One is In the Land of the Free, Vadim Jean's inquiry into possible miscarriages of justice for three Black Panthers serving in Louisiana's Angola prison, and the other, a non-fiction courtroom drama from Rebecca Richman Cohen called War Don Don, about prosecuting war crimes in Sierra Leone.

Films under the aforementioned "Accountability and Justice" rubric include Enemies of the People, in which co-director Thet Sambath unearths bloody truths behind his parents' slaughter -- and that of two million other Cambodian victims of the Khmer Rouge. Sambath and his directing partner Rob Lemkin will be on hand to discuss the film and to receive this year's HRWFF Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking. Enemies of the People snared the 2010 Sundance World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize.

"Development and Migration" comprise the second programming theme of this year’s Festival. Pushing the Elephant is one of two films to consider migration resulting from war. Late '90s strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the point of departure for this non-fiction narrative about a family now living in Phoenix, Arizona and their reunion with a long-missing daughter. The film, co-presented with Mapendo International, will be followed by a Q&A with directors Beth Davenport and Elizabeth Mandel and film subject Rose Mapendo.

Nero’s Guests studies the agrarian distress and inequality that has resulted in an epidemic of suicides among Indian farmers. The award-sweeping film is by P. Sainath, rural affairs editor of The Hindu

Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson return to HRWFF with the latest two entries in their series, "How Democracy Works Now: Twelve Stories." Last Best Chance and Mountains and Clouds bring viewers into the U.S. Congress as it grapples with immigration reform. The filmmakers will entertain audience questions following the screenings.

"Societies in Conflict: Iran and Afghanistan" forms the third theme of HRWFF 2010. Highlights include Restrepo, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's chronicle of a U.S. platoon's deployment in Afghanistan.

Twenty-eight of this year's 30 selections are New York premieres. Youth Producing Change, now in its third version, will make its world 2010 debut at the Walter Reade. The project groups 11 short films made by teen filmmakers from around the world, and is presented in collaboration with Adobe Youth Voices. (For a related article, see our story "'Youth Producing Change' Opens Denver Human Rights Watch.")

Complementing this year's screenings will be a photographic exhibition about maternal mortality in India. Called In Silence, the collection by noted photojournalist Susan Meiselas will be presented in the Walter Reade's Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery throughout the festival.

The full Festival program is posted at
Human Rights Watch Film Festival
June 10 to 24, 2010
Walter Reade Theater
Lincoln Plaza (Upper Level, between Broadway and Amsterdam)
165 West 65th Street

New York, NY 10023

Hola México Film Festival Tours the U.S.

Just as Cinco de Mayo revelers in Miami, Florida, are starting to sober up, another Mexican fiesta is about to intoxicate them. Hola México Film Festival pours into theThe Hola Mexico Poster "capital of Latin America" May 13 to 16, 2010, with the world's largest showcase of purely Mexican cinema. Back for its second spin through the U.S., the Festival opened this year in April in Los Angeles (Apr. 29 - May 4) and will have made had another appearance in San Francisco (May 6 - 11) before the Miami event.

HMFF is a traveling pavilion curated by its founding director, Samuel Douek, and will tour to Chicago (May 20 - 25), Washington, D.C. (May 27 - June 1) and New York (June 2 - 6) before wrapping up.

Raised in Mexico City, Douek moved at age 23 to Sydney, Australia, where he'd soon rack up degrees in marketing and event management. Once down under, Douek began to visit film festivals in and around Sydney, and found Mexican titles to be conspicuous in their absence. That spurred the ex-pat to launch a series exclusively devoted to the cinema of his native country, and hola! -- the Hola México Film Festival was born.

The 2010 program presents 15 feature-length films, including two documentaries, alongside parties and live musical performances.  Miami Dade College's Tower Theater hosts the three-day event (1508 SW Eighth Street, Little Havana).

Each city on the Festival circuit kicks off with a different film. Miami's opening night selection, It Happens in One Day/Sucedió en un día), is a medley of eight shorts shot and edited by as many Mexican filmmakers during 24 hours. Adriana Barraza, whose supporting role in Babel earned her an Oscar nomination, and Joaquín Cosío, who played a henchman in the James Bond vehicle Quantum of Solace, are among the celebrated names who lent their acting talents to this clock-challenged project.

The driving concept behind HMFF is to represent authentic Mexican culture in its complexity, offering a corrective to the stereotypical images that warp most media coverage in this country. Films were selected to give a nuanced range of perspectives and themes on our neighbor to the South.

Not surprisingly, immigration rears its head in a couple of the films. Those Who Remain/Los que se quedan takes the measure of nine Mexican families and villages left behind by loved ones who crossed the Rio Grande to live the American Dream. The film, which picked up a number of prizes at previous festivals, was directed by Carlos Hagerman and Juan Carlos Rulfo.

Rigoberto Pérezcano's Northless/Norteado narrates the fits and starts of a Oaxacan man who sets out for a better life in the U.S., but who finds work and friendships while held back in Tijuana.Demian Bechir

Two of this year's titles plumb father-son relationships. To the Sea/Alamar, from Pedro González-Rubio, partly dips into documentary territory in its tale of generational bonding and fishing during one summer before the son joins his mother in Europe. Among other trophies, the nano-budget film reeled in New Director's Award at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival.

Diego Muñoz's Bitten Bullet/Bala mordida takes a shot at the corruption plaguing Mexico and its police force. The cast includes Damián Alcázar, whom U.S. audiences may recognize from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

As a counterweight to some of the more ponderous takes on Mexico, there's Kitsch is Cool/Naco Es Chido. The comedy by Sergio Arau (A Day Without a Mexican) is about an 80s rock band whose lost recordings fetch up in a junk heap two decades after their members mysteriously vanished.

Raiding the Mexican film cache, HMFF pays tribute to Antonio Serrano's 1999 blockbuster dramedy, Sex, Shame and Tears/Sexo, pudor y lágrimas. Demián Bechir, Susana Zabaleta, Jorge Salinas and Cecilia Suárez played in this classic "battle of the sexes and the exes."

Though last year's inaugural edition also screened a retrospective work, the current mood is understandably more nostalgic. Mexico is now marking its bicentennial of independence and centennial of its revolution.

Looking ahead, Douek hopes to bring the Festival to other countries besides the US and Sydney, where the festival has been running since 2006.

For the full lineup of HMFF USA films and special events, visit:

Hola México Film Festival
Los Angeles

Apr. 29 - May 4
ArcLight Cinema Hollywood
6360 Sunset Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles Film School
Sunset Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA

General Admission $12.50
ArcLight member, Senior and Child (under 12) $11.00

San Francisco
May 6 - 11
Landmark's Embarcadero Cinema
One Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Opening Night tickets for STUDENTS with ID - $15.00

May 13 - 16
Tower Theater
1508 Southwest 8th Street

Miami, FL
305 642 1264

General Admission $10.00
MFS Members/ Seniors $8.00
Students $7.00
Opening Night Film and Fiesta * $25.00
*Fiesta includes Tequila, Beer, Sparkling Wine and Bocaditos

May 20 - 25
Landmark's Century Centre Cinema
2828 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657

Washington D.C.
May 27 - June 1
Landmark's E St Cinema
555 11th Street NW

Washington, DC

New York
June 2 - 6
34 West, 13th St.

New York, NY 10011

 To order click on city below:


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