Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival 

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This touring program of films drawn from the New York and London versions of the Human Rights Film Festival runs Friday through Thursday, May 7 through 13. All screenings will be projected from Beta SP video at Facets Cinematheque. Tickets are $9, $5 for members; for more information call 773-281-4114. Films marked with an asterisk (*) are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, MAY 7

Pinochet's Children

This 2002 documentary by Paula Rodriguez profiles three Chilean activists--a playwright and two politicians--who lost their fathers in the 1973 military coup against Salvador Allende and grew up to agitate against the Pinochet government. In interviews they recall their fathers' disappearances, their own protests, and the lost years after Pinochet stepped down and their anger dissipated. Rodriguez's presentation is serviceable and sometimes cloying, but the testimony often has undeniable poignancy. In Spanish with subtitles. 81 min. (TS) (7:00)

*Rana's Wedding

A soulful Palestinian beauty (Clara Khoury) in occupied East Jerusalem receives an ultimatum from her father: if she hasn't married by the following afternoon, she'll have to accompany him to Egypt. This lively 2002 feature by Hany Abu-Assad follows the determined young woman as she races around the city trying to locate her lover and a registrar so they can tie the knot, a project endlessly complicated by the rioting, roadblocks, and heavy security that are part of everyday life in the occupied territories. At one point the heroine, frustrated by a dying cell phone, makes a motion to dash it to the ground and finds herself staring down the rifle barrels of a half-dozen frightened Israeli soldiers. Given the tension dogging her every step, I wondered if this would end in bloodshed, but Abu-Assad opts for a more hopeful conclusion, making his film--strange as it may seem--a comedy. In Arabic with subtitles. 90 min. (JJ) (9:00)

SATURDAY, MAY 8

*Rana's Wedding

See listing for Friday, May 7. (3:00)

*The Damned and the Sacred

Dutch documentarian Jos de Putter directed this 2002 feature about Daymokhk, a children's dance troupe from war-torn Chechnya, as it tours Europe by bus. Intercut with this filmed footage is video shot in Grozny, where the kids practice their steps in front of bombed-out buildings. De Putter has a great eye for the beauty of children's faces, and the dancers, many of whom have lost friends, fathers, and brothers to the Russian invasions of 1994 and '99, speak calmly and with great poise about their grief-laden lives. The dance sequences crackle with energy, but there's no overlooking the irony of the boys' Cossack costumes and traditional dances involving swords, shields, and hurled knives. In Dutch with subtitles. 75 min. (JJ) (5:00)

*Ford Transit

A unique mix of documentary and fiction, this innovative 2002 feature by Hany Abu-Assad (Rana's Wedding) follows a minibus cab driver as he transports diverse groups of passengers in Ramallah and Jerusalem. Sometimes Abu-Assad includes interviews with Palestinian and Israeli artists and intellectuals on the bus, eliciting their thoughts about the ongoing conflict, and sometimes he constructs mini-narratives about the cab's progress between various checkpoints. Almost everything said sounds intelligent and reasonable, and the varied presentation, which resembles at times a TV variety show, keeps this absorbing and unpredictable throughout. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 80 min. (JR) (7:00)

State of Denial

Elaine Epstein's 2002 documentary about South Africa's AIDS crisis centers on a tragic irony: the country's current president, Thabo Mbeki, will--despite his good intentions--likely be responsible for more deaths among his people than any of his apartheid-era predecessors. Stubbornly insisting there's no proof that HIV causes AIDS, Mbeki has refused to address the escalating epidemic, denying millions of HIV-positive South Africans drugs available in the United States and most European countries. Epstein focuses on six individuals, showing how each copes with the knowledge that, unless they make it into a sponsored program, they will not be able to acquire the life-saving medications they need. 86 min. (Joshua Katzman) (9:00)

SUNDAY, MAY 9

*War Takes

Colombian filmmakers Adelaida Trujillo and Patricia Castano spent several years compiling video journals documenting their respective families' methods of coping with life in a war-torn country on the brink of collapse. Although they're both middle-aged women of privilege, their tapes vividly demonstrate that social station is no buffer against chaos; people from all walks of life are regularly abducted by guerrillas or the opposing paramilitaries and often never heard from again. Humor, often pitch-black, is the key to maintaining a semblance of sanity in both households. The scenes in which Trujillo and her biologist husband attempt to explain the state of things to their young children are deeply affecting. In Spanish with subtitles. 78 min. (Joshua Katzman) (2:00)

Short documentaries, program one

Two works: Ramon Gieling's Welcome to Hadassah Hospital (2002), in Dutch with subtitles, is about a Jerusalem hospital. Norman Cowie's 2002 Scenes From an Endless War (2001-2002) surveys the U.S. war on terror. 82 min. (4:00)

*War Takes

See above listing for this date. (6:00)

Short documentaries, program one

See above listing for this date. (8:00)

MONDAY, MAY 10

State of Denial

See listing for Saturday, May 8. (7:00)

Pinochet's Children

See listing for Friday, May 7. (9:00)

TUESDAY, MAY 11

Short documentaries, program two

Two works: The Italian documentary Poison (2002), in Issan with subtitles, looks at a young kickboxer in Thailand. Francois Verster's When the War Is Over (2002), in Afrikaans with subtitles, is about the aftermath of South African apartheid. 79 min. (7:00, 9:00)

THURSDAY, MAY 13

*Ford Transit

See listing for Saturday, May 8. (7:00)

*The Damned and the Sacred

See listing for Saturday, May 8. (9:00)

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