Previous Films in the Series
The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures is proud to serve as the sponsor and organizer of the University's annual Human Rights Film Series.
The goal of the film series, which is held in January and February, is to help raise awareness--among students, faculty, and the Pittsburgh community, of human rights abuses around the world--in keeping with University's commitment to social justice, globalism, compassion for the less fortunate, and business ethics.
Films screened at the series have dealt with a broad spectrum of issues, including the impact of globalization on third-world nations, ethnic warfare, immigration, women's rights, the environment, fast-food, and “designer” babies.
Films shown in the previous years of the film series are listed below. The Modern Language and Literatures Department owns DVD editions of most of the films listed below in its film library, which is located within the Language Lab, 202 Fisher Hall. Students and faculty members may borrow the films at no cost.
2012 Human Rights Film Series
Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home (2010)
An empathetic but tough-minded documentary that invites us into a part of Los Angeles that many choose to ignore-downtown's skid row. As we meet the distressed area's residents, including a former Olympic runner, a transgendered punk rocker, and an eccentric animal lover and her devoted companion, their remarkable stories paint a multifaceted portrait of life on the streets. There are undeniable problems-mental illness and addition are common themes-but there is also hope and a surprising sense of community. Lost Angels is also a scathing condemnation of the Safer Cities Initiative of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton. Although its stated purpose is to reduce crime in the area, for many the program is nothing more than officially sanctioned class warfare, unfairly targeting the low income and homeless population of skid row in what some feel is an effort to pave the way for gentrification.
Bag It (2010)
Bag It has been garnering awards at film festivals across the nation. What started as a documentary about plastic bags evolved into a wholesale investigation into plastics and their effect on our waterways, oceans, and even our bodies. In the United States alone, an estimated 12 million barrels of oil is used annually to make the plastic bags that Americans consume. The United States International Trade Commission reported that 102 billion plastic bags were used in the U.S. in 2009. These bags often wind up in waterways or on the landscape, becoming eyesores and degrading water and soil as they break down into toxic bits. Their manufacture, transportation and disposal use large quantities of non-renewable resources and release equally large amounts of global-warming gases. Ecologically, hundreds of thousands of marine animals die every year when they eat plastic bags mistaken for food. There are many dangers involved with bisphenol A and phthalates, two additives commonly used in plastic. BPA makes plastic hard and phthalates make plastic soft. BPA and phthalates are two plastic additives that are known endocrine disruptors. Both are known endocrine disruptors. We all come into contact with these toxic chemicals through our food, personal care products and plastic containers.
Inside Job (2010)
the Best Documentary of 2010, Inside Job is a the first film to expose in depth the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, Inside Job traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia.[The film argues that] the worst financial crisis since the Depression, which continues to haunt us via Europe's debt problems and global financial stability...was a completely avoidable crisis...and that the progressive deregulation of the financial sector since the 1980s gave rise to an increasingly criminal industry, whose "innovations" [such as credit default swaps] have produced a succession of financial crises...yet nobody has gone to prison, despite fraud that caused trillions of dollars in losses.
Blue Gold: World Water Wars (2008)
In every corner of the globe, we are polluting, diverting, pumping, and wasting our limited supply of fresh water at an expediential level as population and technology grows. The rampant overdevelopment of agriculture, housing and industry increase the demands for fresh water well beyond the finite supply, resulting in the desertification of the earth. Corporate giants force developing countries to privatize their water supply for profit. Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk water export schemes. Corrupt governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geo-political map and power structure forms, setting the stage for world water wars. [The film follows] numerous worldwide examples of people fighting for their basic right to water, from court cases to violent revolutions to U.N. conventions to revised constitutions to local protests at grade schools. As Maude Barlow proclaims, "This is our revolution, this is our war." A line is crossed as water becomes a commodity. Will we survive?
When We Leave (2010)
German-born Umay flees from her oppressive marriage in Istanbul, taking her young son Cem with her. She hopes to find a better life with her family in Berlin, but her unexpected arrival creates intense conflict. Her family is trapped in their conventions. They are torn between their love for her and the traditional values of their community. Ultimately, they decide to return Cem to his father in Turkey. To keep her son, Umay is forced to move again. She finds the inner strength to build a new life for herself and Cem, but her need for her family's love drives her to a series of ill-fated attempts at reconciliation. What Umay doesn't realize is just how deep the wounds are and how dangerous her struggle for self-determination has become. The film garnered the Best Film and Best Actress honors at the 2010 German Film Awards.
Memory: A Holocaust Survivor's Story (2012)
Produced by Duquesne's own Dr. Dennis Woytek, assistant professor of journalism and multimedia arts, with the assistance of Jessica Blank, a Jewish student and senior digital media arts major, Memory: A Holocaust Survivor's Story tells the story of Howard Chandler, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor, who returns to his home village in Poland and visits the concentration camps where he was imprisoned during World War II. Dr. Woytek and Ms. Blank traveled to Poland this past summer with Mr. Chandler, along with members of Classrooms Without Borders Pittsburgh, a non-profit that connects teachers to multicultural experiences to create a global learning community." Our goal as a documentary film crew was to record the events, the experiences of the group and to record Howard Chandler as he again walked in his footsteps that brought so much sadness more than 67 years ago," Woytek said. Chandler was only 14 when he was forced into slave labor by the Nazi regime after the Nazis invaded Poland. He was later sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, a concentration camp where nearly 3 million people lost their lives. For Blank, the experience deepened her resolve to preserve Holocaust experiences of the survivors and tell of the personal courage involved in such a dark time in history.
2011 Human Rights Film Series
Afghan Star (2009)
After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, pop culture has returned to Afghanistan, and Afghan Star, an American Idol-style television series, is searching the country for the next generation of music stars. The organizers, Tolo TV, believe with this program they can "move people from guns to music." But in a troubled country like Afghanistan, even music is controversial. Despite being deemed sacrilegious by the mujahadeen and banned outright by the Taliban, music has come to symbolize freedom for Afghani youth.
Crossing Arizona (2006)
Americans on all sides of the issue are up in arms, and Congress is locked in a policy battle over immigration. Crossing Arizona shows how we got to this impasse. Heightened security in California and Texas has pushed illegal border-crossers into the treacherous Arizona desert in unprecedented numbers - an estimated 4,500 a day. Most are men in search of work, but increasingly the border-crossers are women and children seeking to reunite with their families. This influx of migrants crossing the desert and the death toll from exposure and exhaustion have elicited complicated feelings about human rights, culture, class, labor and national security.
Three years in the making, this cinema-verite feature is the epic story of one of the largest and most controversial environmental lawsuits on the planet. The inside story of the infamous "Amazon Chernobyl" case, Crude is a real-life, high-stakes legal drama. The landmark case takes place in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador, pitting 30,000 indigenous and other rainforest dwellers against the U.S. oil giant Chevron. The plaintiffs claim that Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, spent three decades systematically poisoning the water, air and soil in one of the earth's most biologically diverse regions.
Food, Inc. (2008)
How much do we really know about the food we buy in our grocery stores and serve to our families? Food, Inc. lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing a highly mechanized system hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's principal food regulatory agencies, the USDA and FDA. The film reveals how a handful of corporations control most of our food. These corporations often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers or the environment.
The Age of Stupid (2009)
In the year 2055, when the world has been devastated by climate change, a man sees video from our era and wonders why we didn't stop climate change when we had the chance. He begins searching for clues. In an archive near the iceless Arctic, he uncovers the stories of six people who lived in the early decades of the twenty-first century: a New Orleans resident in the aftermath of Katrina, an Indian businessman whose dream was affordable air travel, two children who fled war-torn Iraq, an octogenarian alpinist who witnessed the glaciers' retreat, a stymied sustainable energy entrepreneur and a Nigerian woman impoverished despite her country's oil wealth. Each of these people lived before cities lay under water, before fire consumed the rainforest, before ice and snow disappeared and before nuclear war destroyed India. Through their stories, the film sheds light on how people are causing, and can halt, global warming.
They Killed Sister Dorothy (2008)
They Killed Sister Dorothy chronicles the legal proceedings that followed the execution-style murder of a Catholic nun and activist. At age 73, Sister Dorothy Stang had lived in Brazil for 30 years, collaborating with the government to establish sustainable development in a remote corner of the Amazon. But along the way, she had made enemies among the ranchers who stood to benefit from the exploitation of the rainforest and its natural resources. In 2005, she was shot six times at point-blank range. Two men were arrested for the killing, but it quickly became clear that her death was part of a much greater conspiracy.
2010 Human Rights Film Series
Enough is Enough: The Death of Jonny Gammage
On October 12, 1995 Jonny Gammage, a 31-year-old African-American businessman, churchgoer and volunteer, was pulled over by five white police officers while driving a Jaguar owned by his cousin, Pittsburgh Steeler Ray Seals. During the ensuing struggle Gammage was asphyxiated. There was shock and revulsion in the community, and thousands, both black and white, took to the streets to protest. Enough is ENOUGH! examines the criminal justice system and the procedural relationships among the law enforcement officers, the Coroner's office, the District Attorneys, and the courts. Interwoven with the story line are interviews with prominent lawyers, politicians and activists such as Prof. Charles Ogletree of Harvard, Louis Farrakhan, Johnnie Cochran, Al Sharpton and many others.
Sand and Sorrow
Offered exclusive and unparalleled access to the situation on the ground inside Darfur, Peabody award-winning filmmaker, Paul Freedman ("Rwanda - Do Scars Ever Fade?"), joins a contingent of African Union peacekeeping forces in Darfur while a tragic and disturbing chapter in human history unfolds. While the heroic men and women of this undermanned and under-funded mission brave harsh conditions and unfettered violence, as many as 2.5 million displaced persons have no choice but to settle inside squalid camps to wait and hope. (An estimated four-hundred thousand civilians have perished so far.)
"Left home at the age of seven/one year later I'm carryin' an Ak-47." For hip hop artist Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier in Sudan's brutal civil war, these lyrics are hardly empty posturing. They are the bitter reality of a young man who was "forced to sin" but determined to "never give up and never give in." Today, wounded but still hopeful, Emmanuel Jal fights a new battle: bringing peace to his beloved Sudan and building schools in Africa. This time, his weapon is a microphone. See why audiences from New York to Berlin to London rave about the award-winning film, War Child, and have embraced the hip-hop artist with a terrifying past and a gentle soul. Interspersing original interviews, live concerts, and rare footage of Emmanuel Jal as a seven year-old boy, War Child will make viewers cry, laugh, dance, and celebrate the power of hope.
Mardi Gras: Made in China
This examination of cultural and economic globalization follows the life-cycle of Mardi Gras beads from a small factory in Fuzhou, China, to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and to art galleries in New York City.
In June 2002, a dispute involving a question of honor between the Mai and Mastois clans in rural Pakistan was judged by a local tribal council. When Mukhtar Mai pleaded on her family's behalf, the local imam consented to her punishment as honor-revenge, and she was brutally gang-raped by four men from the Mastois clan. Although local tradition presumed that Mukhtar would commit suicide because she had been dishonored, this strong-willed peasant woman reported the rape to the local police, and when they refused to do anything, a local journalist published her story, which soon erupted in a national controversy over the oppression of women under Islamic law. DISHONORED documents the remarkable story of Mukhtar Mai, whose demand for justice received media coverage worldwide, and which over the next few years led to a dramatic series of legal proceedings through Pakistan's lower court system, with successive controversial decisions being appealed, to a final ruling by the nation's Supreme Court, which led to changes in the legal system.
Irena Salina's award-winning documentary investigation into what experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century - The World Water Crisis. Salina builds a case against the growing privatization of the world's dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel. Interviews with scientists and activists intelligently reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale, and the film introduces many of the governmental and corporate culprits behind the water grab, while begging the question "CAN ANYONE REALLY OWN WATER?"
2009 Human Rights Film Series
Mountain Top Removal
Throughout southern Appalachia, mountain top removal coal mining is on the rise blasting and leveling highland forests and streams. The process literally changes the geology of the region. Citizens negatively impacted by the resulting flooding, pollution, and destruction of their homes are fighting back to oppose big coals impact on their lives and communities. The film documents the struggles of local citizens to stop this mining practice, focusing on people who live in the shadows of a mountain area that is being surface mined..
Fast Food Nation
This highly controversial film, which premiered in theatres around the country in 2006, presents an admittedly one-sided view of the fast-food industry. It presents a fictional account of what is supposedly the real life conditions behind the hamburgers we consume at popular fast food restaurants. The film follows Don Anderson, the Marketing Director for the hamburger chain Mickey's, who helped develop the "The Big One," its most popular menu item. When he learns that independent research has discovered the presence of animal waste in the meat, he travels to Cody, Colorado to verify if the local slaughterhouse, the main supplier for Mickey's, is guilty of sloppy production techniques. A secondary plot deals with the exploitation of illegal immigrants from Mexico.
A Killer Bargain
This is a searing human rights documentary unveiling corporations profiting from Indian textile production through the massive use of pesticides, which kill indigenous workers and destroy their environment. A Killer Bargain illuminates thoroughly and convincingly the dark side of globalization, one in which desperately needed jobs in the Third World cause the shortening of lives of many working poor.
Some time in the 1960's, in the heart of Africa, a new animal was introduced into Lake Victoria as a little scientific experiment. The Nile Perch, a voracious predator, extinguished almost the entire stock of the native fish species. However, the new fish multiplied so fast, that its white fillets are today exported all around the world. Huge hulking ex-Soviet cargo planes come daily to collect the latest catch in exchange for their southbound cargo. This booming multinational industry of fish and weapons has created an ungodly globalized alliance on the shores of the world's biggest tropical lake: an army of local fishermen, World bank agents, homeless children, African ministers, EU commissioners, Tanzanian prostitutes and Russian pilots.
The film investigates the future as it exists today in Los Angeles. The Sundance Film Festival describes Frozen Angels as "a mesmerizing work that is not so much a science film as a startling conduit into the future of the American Dream, where children can be added to the shopping list." The film makes the connection between individual desire and a society that would seek to design its children. With no narration, the characters tell their own conflicting stories; viewers are asked to contemplate their own thoughts about the coming of the new eugenics and the world we will leave for the children being created.
An animated, coming-of-age story, Persepolis is the tale of a young Persian girl, the film's director Marjane "Marji" Satrapi, and her idealistic family. They witness the overthrow of their country's hated dictator, the Shah, during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. However, as Marji grows up, she sees firsthand how the new Iran, now ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, has become a repressive tyranny on its own. With Marji dangerously refusing to remain silent about injustice, her parents send her abroad to Vienna, hoping that she will find a better life. This change, however, proves to be a difficult trial, as the young woman finds herself in an alien culture loaded with abrasive characters and profound disappointment
2008 Human Rights Film Series
Multinational coffee companies rule shopping malls and supermarkets and dominate the $80-billion-plus coffee industry.
Millions of maquiladora workers produce televisions, electrical cables, toys, clothes, batteries and IV tubes; they weave the very fabric of life for consumer nations.
Death on a Friendly Border
The border that runs between Tijuana and San Diego is the most heavily militarized border between "friendly" countries anywhere in the world.
Celebrated Iranian writer-director Abbas Kiarostami once again casts his masterful cinematic gaze upon the modern sociopolitical landscape of his homeland, this time as seen through the eyes of one woman as she drives through the streets of Tehran over a period of several days.
Angélica is pursued across the international border by a mute trombonist. This strange musician takes up with the distraught young woman but has an unusual way of showing his affection.
Faces of Change
"Oppression is the same everywhere.... These dusty African children are the same as the dusty children of India," says an Indian activist. Oppression is the common denominator between the causes of five global crusaders in Faces of Change.
God Grew Tired of Us
Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, God Grew Tired of Us explores the indomitable spirit of three “Lost Boys” from the Sudan who leave their homeland, triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversities and move to America.
2005 Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign language Film, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is the true story of Germany’s most famous anti-Nazi heroine brought to thrilling dramatic life.