Welcome to the 2017 Human Rights Film Series
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
--Emma Lazurus 1883
A bit ironic, isn't it, that just a few miles from the gold-gilded Trump Tower stands a statue that offered these words of hope to millions of immigrants who flocked to our shores, words that are at the very core of what many of us have long believed to define our country.
Certainly, our nation, our society and the world at large have undergone profound transformation between 9-11 and 11-9. While we hope and pray that a kinder, gentler, and more inclusive America will emerge from the rubble and crass discourse of the recent election under the leadership of the new president, many of us remain troubled by the divisiveness of our country, and the backwards drift toward nationalism and exclusionism which is at play not only in the US, but in Europe and Asia as well--not to mention the extreme dictatorial regimes and fundamentalist groups that have created a refugee crisis of epic proportions.
Leaders in Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries have called multiculturalism a failure, the UK has abandoned the idea of one Europe, the alt-right movement is on the rise in France, and many developed nations, including our own, are rethinking economic globalization and threatening to tear up long-standing trade agreements and defense pacts.
As a result of this tumultuous upheaval in global politics, the world's tired and poor, homeless and tempest-tossed (the boat refugees from Africa and Syria come to mind) are indeed being treated like wretched refuse--with country after country closing their borders or severely limiting the number of refugees and immigrants, while others are putting up walls, both real and prejudicial, packing their guns, and taking extreme stances on everything from women's rights to the environment.
For these reasons, as we observe the 10th anniversary of our film series, it has never been more important for the voices of the "huddled masses" of the world to be heard, and the deeds of those who exploit them exposed. With this goal in mind, we have selected six films that shed light on the plight of the less fortunate, and the forces at work, largely from right-wing ideological movements, that have contributed to their abuse and oppression. Included are an exposé into the workings of the NRA (a bastion of American conservatism), a heartbreaking look into the tribulations of Syrian refugees, a critical assessment of the global warming crisis, a documentary on the lives of homeless teens in our own country, and a view into the hard life of migrant farm workers in California.
We end our series with a must-see film appropriately called Human. The film is a unique and extremely moving viewing experience, consisting of stories (and unforgettable faces) of ordinary people from around the world--stories of extreme sorrow, and stories of unbridled hope. It is a film that is bound to make you leave the theatre contemplating what it really means to be human. May it serve as a reminder that, no matter what the political climate of our country or the world may be--for the sake of humanity--we must strive to overcome our divisiveness, and learn to see beyond the national and psychological boundaries that prevent us from seeing each other as members of the same human family.
Edith Krause, Ph. D., Chair, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
Mark Frisch, Ph. D.
Mary Ann Hess, M.A.
Karl J. Skutski, M. A.
2017 Duquesne University Human Rights Film Series Committee