Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival 

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This touring program runs Friday through Thursday, May 26 through June 1. Unless otherwise noted, all screenings are by video projection at Facets Cinematheque, and tickets are $9, $5 for members. For more information call 773-281-4114 or visit www.facets.org.

The Education of Shelby Knox Filmmakers Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt chronicle the three-year struggle of Shelby Knox, a remarkably tenacious high school student, as she attempts to force the Lubbock, Texas, public schools to implement a basic sex-education program. An evangelical Christian with Republican parents, Knox becomes troubled by Lubbock's "abstinence only" approach to sex education in light of the city's high rate of teenage pregnancies and STDs. Her activism draws the ire of much of the community, including local politicians and her prominent Baptist minister; hackles really get raised when she decides to support a gay-straight alliance group in her school. This would have been a stronger work had the filmmakers more fully explored how Knox arrived at her convictions in light of her deeply conservative roots. Still, it's pretty eye-opening, and it's hard not to be awed by her determination and resilience. 76 min. (Reece Pendleton) a Sat 5/27, 1 PM

R The Liberace of Baghdad Originally director Sean McAllister planned to make a movie about life in Baghdad immediately after the so-called end of the second gulf war, but when he befriended Samir Peter, the articulate, funny, resolutely chain-smoking title character of this 2004 documentary, he opted instead to train his video camera on him. Once the most popular concert pianist in Iraq, Samir formerly maintained a rather extravagant lifestyle, with a large, lavish house and plenty of booze and women. By the time McAllister finds him, he's holed up in a small room in the basement of a Baghdad hotel, playing nightly for a scattering of mercenaries and military personnel and too afraid to make the trek back to his house each night to join his children. In English and subtitled Arabic. 75 min. (JK) a Mon 5/29, 7 PM, and Thu 6/1, 9 PM

R Mardi Gras: Made in China This 2005 video offers a bracing lesson in global economics, crosscutting between a bead factory in Fuzhou, China (a kind of internment camp where teenage girls work 12-hour shifts for ten cents an hour), and the New Orleans Mardi Gras festivities where the beads end up (including a ritual in which women flash their breasts in exchange for them). Video maker David Redmon repeatedly asks each group about the other and discovers that both are usually clueless. No surprise there, nor in the factory boss's spin on how happy everyone is, the recycling of the beads in "care packages" sent to Baghdad, or the fact that the styrene used to manufacture them causes cancer. In English and subtitled Cantonese, Fujianese, and Mandarin. 72 min. (JR) a Sat 5/27, 9 PM, and Wed 5/31, 7 PM

R Omagh Originally broadcast on Irish TV, this 2004 drama chronicles the events surrounding the August 1998 car bombing that claimed 29 lives in Omagh, Northern Ireland. The crime occurred four months after the Good Friday agreement, carried out by a group of IRA hard-liners who felt that negotiation amounted to capitulation. Using handheld camera, director Pete Travis renders the events in a flat, unemotional style, telling the story from the perspective of the Gallaghers, who lost a 21-year-old son to the bombing. The first half casts them as grieving victims, though the second traces their gradual empowerment as they demand that the bumbling local police identify, arrest, and prosecute the culprits. With Gerard McSorley, Michele Forbes, and Brenda Fricker. 106 min. (JK) Tickets for this benefit screening and reception are $75, $150, and $250, and must be purchased in advance at 212-216-1805. Michael Gallagher, the family patriarch, and Carroll Bogert, associate director of Human Rights Watch, will attend. a Thu 6/1, 6 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago.

R Private Based on a true story, this tense Italian thriller (2004) explores the divisions that emerge in a Palestinian family after their home becomes occupied by Israeli soldiers. The father (Mohammad Bakri), a well-educated pacifist, insists on staying put as the soldiers try to goad him into leaving, though his wife and children grow increasingly demoralized. The mostly handheld camera totters and jerks as family members pursue their own courses of action, and director Saverio Costanzo shrewdly de-emphasizes the political issues, instead charting the subtle shifts in power between the prisoners and their captors. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 90 min. (JK) a Sat 5/27, 7 PM, and Sun 5/28, 1 PM

R Pulled From the Rubble In this loving and heartbreaking 2004 video Margaret Loescher recounts her father's traumatic experience in Iraq. A specialist in war refugees and a correspondent for the Web page OpenDemocracy, Gil Loescher was meeting with the UN commissioner for human rights when a truck filled with explosives hit the building, killing 22 people and costing Loescher much of his right hand and both his legs. In her terse but eloquent voice-over Margaret denounces the war and its justifications, but she also interrogates her own motives in recording her family's struggles and respects the fact that others--including the paramedic who saved her father's life and whom she interviews--feel differently. 63 min. (JR) a Sat 5/27, 5 PM, and Mon 5/29, 9 PM

R Street Fight Video maker Marshall Curry could argue with some credibility that he drove five-term Newark mayor Sharpe James out of office: this gripping, Oscar-nominated documentary (2005) presents such a scathing portrait of the veteran Jersey pol he must have realized his days were numbered when he declined to seek another term in 2006. The video chronicles the bitter 2002 race between James and Cory Booker, a bright and articulate young city councilman who ran as a reform candidate, and alleges that James used a variety of underhanded (and possibly illegal) tactics to win the election. Because Curry was stonewalled by the James campaign, his video is hopelessly skewed toward Booker (who handily won the mayoralty two weeks ago), but it's still a sobering look at how an entrenched incumbent can crush a challenger. 83 min. (JJ) a Fri 5/26, 7 PM

Video Letters These two programs collect episodes from the documentary series created by Dutch video makers Eric van den Broek and Katarina Rejger, who offered survivors of the Balkan wars a chance to reconnect with people from their past. The format is simple--the survivor videotapes a message, the producers deliver it, and the recipient has a chance to respond. But there's nothing simple about the emotional wreckage recorded here--in one episode a woman asks her former captor to help locate her children's remains. Amid all the wrenching confessions and tearful reunions a sense of the quotidian emerges, showing how many modest lives were touched by the savagery. (JJ) a Sun 5/28, 3 PM (program one, 65 min.) and 5 PM (program two, 75 min.)

ALSO SHOWING:

Compadre a Sun 5/28, 7 PM, and Tue 5/30, 9 PM

Justice a Fri 5/26, 9 PM, and Thu 6/1, 7 PM

Living Rights a Tue 5/30, 7 PM, and Wed 5/31, 9 PM

No More Tears, Sister a Sat 5/27, 3 PM, and Sun 5/28, 9 PM

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