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Human Rights Voices at the 2019 Margaret Mead Film Festival


By Roger Costa


Spanning the wild-animals conservancy operations throughout the world, director Floor van der Meulen composes a richly observed, powerful statement of awareness, yet profoundly sad look at the last days of the only remaining male rhinoceros in the globe. The camera goes inside the 24/7 secured area in Kenya, an extremely sensitive, risky and expensive project that costs millions of dollars to maintain a year, including its employees’ salaries, giving insightful and intimate glimpses of the incredible animal and the dedication of the activists caring for it. Collecting relevant testimonies from biologists working on its reproduction, caretakers, scientists and pacifists, the film digs up a controversial analysis on the issue, pointing to the effects of human’s decisions. Gorgeously shot with enhanced images of arid landscapes and wild life, it’s a heartbreaking experience, a meditation on modern behavior and its consequences, the relationship and respect between men and animal, and the extremes of greed and consumerism. Essential! (Screens 10/19.)


Intimate and inclusive, directors Vincent Carelli and Wewito Piyãko compose an enigmatic statement on human rights, following the struggle of a multi-ethnic family dealing with prejudice in the indigenous borderland between Peru and Brazil. Collecting truthful testimonies from Piti, the white wife who tells her amazing journey, since when she met her Indian husband, to the battles with society and authorities, the obstacles to raise a family, and the eventual risks faced by her descendants in the fight for their rights. Using political context to reveal the nature of devastation, reckless human violence, the emotional consequences and the issue of extinction for the Asháninka people, it’s an investigative, profound, yet powerful and stirring look at their comradeship, family traditions and bravery. (Screens 10/19.)


Following the dangerous journey of a group of Latino immigrants, crossing rivers, railroads and the desert, hoping to reach the US, director Raúl O. Paz Pastrana’s acclaimed production is an insightful, moving and utterly raw survivalist take on the most crucial issue of our times. Focusing on the re-adaptation of a Nicaragua-born refugee seeking asylum, and the explorations of Anthropologist Jason De León through their traces and objects left behind, it provides revelatory facts from both sides- the shelters, the investigations, the goal to provide for families- with urgency and efficiency. An intense, compassionate and provocative diary of an uncertain quest for the future. (Screens 10/18.)


A group of artists in Australia, including a couple of Aboriginals, gather in a resort for a popular drag-queen competition. Breaking boundaries and conventional standards, director Adrian Russell Wills crafts a funny, uplifting and ultra irreverent portrait of friendship and loyalty, while pointing to the never-ending fight for equality, and for the simple, necessary right to be oneself. Blending personal testimonies, as they share their anxieties and pleasures, family disappointments and overcoming fears, fascinating musical numbers, dramatic turns and comic relief, it’s a glamorous, extravagant and brilliant account on the LGBTQI’s community strength and colorful optimistic views. (Screens 10/19.)

HI, A.I.

German filmmaker Isa Willinger’s third feature is a thought-provoking look at the relationship between men and technology, spanning the lives of several people and their co-dependence to humanoid robots. Amusing and bizarre at equal levels, the film presents the effects it cause on all sides: humans, machines and industry. A Japanese family educates Pepper, a robot that serves as a mixture of pet/beloved cousin; a man in Texas develops an intense “marriage” to a beautiful doll; a company in Italy speeds up the production of the demanding orders; machines already re-placing human jobs as receptionists. Winner of the Best Documentary Award at Filmfestival Max Ophüls Preis, and nominated for the same prize at German Film Awards, it’s an accomplished and fearless look at tech behavior. (Screens 10/19.)


In early 70’s, a Puerto-Rican Salsa-musician boy, became a sensation after playing a gig for a gigantic audience at the Madison Square Garden in New York, mysteriously vanishing right after that. Led by iconic music-producer Harvey Averne, responsible for his concert, an investigation ensues in order to locate the child star and discover what really happened to him. Director-Producer Sam Zubrycki’s compelling, intriguing puzzle captures the effervescent musicality of the Island, while painting a heartbreaking canvas of family values and economic despair. Vibrant and inspiring, it’s an outstanding feature debut, proving Zubrycki to be one filmmaker to watch. (Screens 10/20.)


Winner of the Jury Prize at Newburyport Documentary Film Festival, Bill Gallagher’s heart-wrenching feature debut tells the story of Guor, a South Sudan war survivor Athlete fighting borders and bureaucracy to accomplish his objective: run in the Olympics. A thrilling, inspiring and detailed account on the country’s starving issue, civil war and humanitarian negligence, Gallagher brilliantly blends truthful testimonies, relevant facts, animation, and personal drama, creating an accomplished statement on freedom and acceptance. It’s a triumphant look at the notorious human rights’ battle that gained attention worldwide, showcasing a man’s determination and passionate dreams. (Screens 10/19.)


Very intimate, heart-rending and honest, Award-winning documentarian Jason DaSilva’s follow-up to his Emmy-winner “When I Walk” depicts the struggle of his advancing multiple sclerosis condition, and his efforts to connect to his son. A moving and inspirational will for his heir, the director opens up about his early days as a young filmmaker, the devastating diagnosis, his marriage, the ups-and-downs and separation, and the effects on the son’s arrival. And while trying to get medical and housing assistance, as well as the right to be with his son, the film presents an alarming look at the troubles faced by disabled people in now-a-days America. (Screens 10/19.)

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