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Wednesday, December 19 , 2018, 6:27 am | Fair 42º


With Six Dates and 12 Screenings, Human Rights Film Festival Opens at UCSB

Wine and cheese reception ushers in a showcase of international documentaries exploring issues such as sex trafficking and genocide

A simple wine and cheese reception on Monday opened the weighty seventh annual Santa Barbara Human Rights Film Festival, a compelling showcase of 12 eye-opening international documentary films that explore the many facets of human rights abuse around the world — on subjects from sex trafficking and genocide to the Arab Spring and the War on Terror.

UCSB Arts & Lectures and UCSB’s Carsey-Wolf Center are presenting six evenings of double-feature screenings at the state-of-the-art Pollock Theatre, starting last Monday, April 9, and running through Wednesday, May 9 at 7 and 9 p.m. A coffee intermission will be held between each evening’s screenings.

UCSB Arts & Lectures, Carsey-Wolf Center staff and student volunteers, including Carsey-Wolf Center Director Richard Hutton, Associate Director Leanne French, Karna Hughes, UCSB Arts & Lectures Associate Director Roman Baratiak, Cristina Venegas, Heather Silva, Jessica Gotsman, Shelby Miller and Rebecca Saech, worked together to greet the 200 guests who assembled before the first presentation.

Santa Barbara Human Rights Committee chair and international Human Rights Watch board member Vicki Riskin introduced the two films from the theater stage, then the talented and energetic Roman Baratiak welcomed the students, faculty members and community supporters present. The idea of a Human Rights Film Festival was largely initiated by Baratiak, who has been programming for UCSB Arts & Lectures since 1980.

“What is happening internationally is important to me,” he said. “My parents were Ukrainian immigrants, and I understand the issues of being a ‘captive nation.’”

The first film, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, explored government and military malfeasance and the quest for justice in Guatemala. Directed by Pamela Yates (When the Mountains Tremble), this prize-winning documentary weaves together stories of people affected by the Guatemalan military’s killing and disappearance of nearly 200,000 Mayans in 1982. The filmmaker becomes an essential part of the attempt, decades later, to bring the military men and political leaders to justice.

Yates was in her early 20s when she embarked on a project to capture images of the Guatemalan peasants who formed a people’s movement to gain human rights and greater access to food and jobs. The iron-fisted military decided to host elections at the time in order to create an appearance of democracy, which gained Yates access to interviews with murderers.

Nearly 40 years later, Yates unearths boxes and boxes of 16mm film from her Guatemalan film project, which she had kept in storage in the United States. The footage now has become evidence for prosecutors trying to prove the case.

The selection of the Yates documentary for opening night was significant, as her film State of Fear (about Peru) was shown at the first Human Rights Film Festival seven years ago.

The second opening-night film was The Siege (La Toma), which related the bloody insurrection that took place in Bogota, Colombia, in 1985, when armed guerrillas took over the Palace of Justice. The Colombian military responded, turning Bolivar Square into a battlefield, with hundreds of civilians taken hostage.

The film explores what happens 25 years later when a colonel is confronted in a highly charged trial and the families of the “disappeared” demand answers about their loved ones.

The remaining festival screenings are (7 and 9 p.m.):

» Wednesday, April 11: Goodbye Mubarak! and Fragments of a Revolution

» Monday, April 23: We Were Here and Better This World

» Wednesday, April 25: Give Up Tomorrow and The Price of Sex

» Monday, May 7: Where Heaven Meets Hell and Hell and Back Again

» Wednesday, May 9: The Interrupters and Payback

Support for the film festival was provided by the Human Rights Watch Santa Barbara Committee and The Fund for Santa Barbara. Lynda.com is also a season supporter.

An evening pass is good for one or both films per evening. The cost is $10 for the general public and $5 for UCSB students. To purchase tickets, call the UCSB Arts & Lectures ticket office at 805.893.3535 or click here to order online.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews, @NoozhawkBiz and @NoozhawkSociety. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook and Noozhawk on Pinterest.

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