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HRFF 2011
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HRFF 2011
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HRFF 2011
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HRFF 2011
Photos from past festivals
HRFF 2011
Photos from past festivals
HRFF 2011
Photos from past festivals
HRFF 2011
Photos from past festivals
HRFF 2011
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HRFF 2011
Photos from past festivals
HRFF 2011
Photos from past festivals
HRFF 2011
Photos from past festivals
HRFF 2011
Photos from past festivals
HRFF 2011
Photos from past festivals
HRFF 2011
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HRFF 2011
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HRFF 2011
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Sunrise over Lone Mountain stairs

Film Descriptions

12th Annual USF Human Rights Film Festival
April 3 - 5, 2014 (Thurs - Sat)
Presentation Theater, 2350 Turk Boulevard at Masonic
Free & open to the general public.

Film Descriptions

Please click the dates below to read film descriptions.

Thursday, April 3

12:00 PM

Program Curator: Cristina Pachano-Lauderdale
Q&A with Student Filmmakers

2013, 5:01 min, Filmmaker: Yannan Shen
To pursue her dream as a photographer, Wenxin Zhang moved to the San Francisco, California. Although, she continues to turn down job offers because she wants to pursue her own artistic vision through her photographs rather than sitting in a gallery for nothing. Unable to leave the United States without ever being able to return, she must attain an O1 visa to have basic right of pursuing her dream.

2013, 5:21 min, Filmmaker: Lauren Abuali
A commentary on the way society portrays women in the media. A beautiful representation of one girls story, looking at how she is influenced by the media's portrayal of women and how she overcomes the pressures that surround her.

2013, 6:34 min, Filmmaker: Moonui Choi
It's so easy to disregard those that called the streets their home, but it's imperative we remember that each person is significant and has a compelling story to tell. Hear this man's story.

2013, 7 min, Filmmaker: Jennifer de Leon
With the establishment of San Francisco's new bike share flooding the headlines, a dark cloud looms over our city streets. Four people have been hit and killed while biking in and around SoMa in the year 2013 alone. White Bike tells the story of one of these accidents, and the San Francisco Bike Coalition's project for safety and justice.

2013, 12:20 min, Filmmakers: Ellie Vanderlip & Sonia Tagare
72% of farmworkers in California are migrants who struggle daily in the fields of industrial agriculture giants. Lack of proper wages, job security, and health protection keep this population from thriving. Pastures of Plenty, centered around a small Biodynamic farm in Central California, examines how, in contrast, organic, small-scale farms can improve the safety, health, and success of migrant farmworkers and their families as they adjust to their life in a new country.

1:15 PM
USA, Filmmaker(s): Yoruba Richen, Year: 2013, 82 min

* Selection of the Human Rights Watch Film Traveling Film Festival
Q&A with Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, Vice Provost for Diversity Engagement and Community Outreach

The New Black
The New Black tells the story of how the African American community is grappling with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in light of the marriage equality movement and the fight over civil rights. We meet activists, families, and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland, a state with a 30 percent African-American population. Through this story, the film examines homophobia in the black community's institutional pillar—the black church—and reveals the Christian right wing's strategy of exploiting this phenomenon in order to pursue an anti-gay political agenda. The New Black takes viewers into the pews and onto the streets as it tells the story of the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland and charts the evolution of this divisive issue within the black community.


3:15 PM
USA, Filmmaker(s): Antonio Vargas and Ann Lupo, Year: 2013, 90 min
Q&A with Denisse Rojas, Ju Hong, and Miriam Uribe, Activist Dreamers

In 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in the New York Times Magazine. "Documented" chronicles his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist/provocateur; and his journey inward as he re-connects with his mother, whom he hasn't seen in 20 years.

5:30 PM
Argentina, Filmmaker: Ines Compan, Year: 2009, 52 min
Q&A with Professor Dorothy Kidd, Media Studies, USF

Open Sky
In rural northwest Argentina, the indigenous Kolla's land and quality of life is threatened after the government permits a Canadian company, Standard Silver to open an ambitious open-sky silver mine in Mina Pirquitas. The residents, mostly poor llama, goat and chinchilla farmers with little political clout, become understandably inflamed that the government would allow this usufruct without offering any sort of compensation for long-term environmental damage and share of the profits of the non-renewable resources. The residents feel that they are being bamboozled with promises of mining jobs that will enable them to stay in the area, yet the government ministers turns a deaf ear when reminders are made of long ago requests for a local clinic, school and improvements to drinking water quality. A great community dialogue and discussion is established to educate and band together the locals who must fight against a powerful corporation and a government who rules by dividing and conquering and creating conflicts amidst the indigenous populace.

7:00 PM
Haiti/France/US, Filmmaker: Raoul Peck, Year: 2012, 100 min

Q&A with Nicole Phillips, Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). Professor of Human Rights, Université de la Fondation Dr. Aristide (UNIFA), Faculté des Sciences Juridiques et Politiques, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Fatal Assistance
Award-winning Haitian born filmmaker Raoul Peck takes us on a two-year journey inside the challenging, contradictory, and colossal rebuilding efforts in post-earthquake Haiti. Through its provocative and radical point of view, Fatal Assistance offers a devastating indictment of the international community's post-disaster idealism. The film dives headlong into the complexity of the reconstruction process and the practice and impact of worldwide humanitarian and development aid, revealing the disturbing extent of a general failure. We learn that a major portion of the money pledged to Haiti was never disbursed, nor made it into the actual reconstruction. Fatal Assistance leads us to one clear conclusion: current aid policies and practices in Haiti need to stop immediately. Official Selection at the Berlin Film Festival.

Friday, April 4

12:00 PM

Program Curator: Erika Myszynski
Q&A with Alumni Filmmakers

2013, 8:31 min, Filmmaker: Mike Kuba (‘12 Alumn) in conjunction with Actuality Media: Dean Jacobson (Editor, Australian), Daniel Karnafel (Producer, American) and Cassandra Heikkila (Director, American)
Just outside the southern wall of Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa, is Sadili Oval Sports Academy. Meaning "well-being" in Swahili," Sadili is a social enterprise that uses sports as a means to reach out to children and young people in need - both in the slums and from across East Africa. "Dirt Court Dreams" centers on Flo --- a Kibera resident and tennis coach --- and reflects how Sadili has made her life better and through her has, and is, improving the lives of many others. Further Information on Sadili visit

2013, 22:33 min, Filmmaker: Kate Elston (‘09 Alumna)
Selection of SF Indie Fest 2013. Best Shorts, Award Winner
When Lucas was a girl named Laura, he always wanted to be a boy. Now he’s becoming one. This candid documentary follows Lucas Waldron, a 21 year-old transitioning from female to male, as he negotiates what it means to be transgender after years of struggling to identify himself. Told through personal interviews, old photos and footage, and verite scenes, “Sex: M” seeks to explain what the T in LGBT really means. For more information visit

1:15 PM
France, Senegal, Germany, Filmmaker: Moussa Touré, Year: 2012, 87 min 
Q&A with Nunu Kidane, Priority Africa Network


The Pirogue
Senegalese director Moussa Toure's powerful new epic fiction film: a group of 30 West African immigrants leave Senegal in a pirogue captained by a local fisherman facing the sea—and the possibility of never reaching their destination—to undertake the treacherous crossing of the Atlantic to Spain where they believe better lives and prospects are waiting for them. A mix of tribes and nationalities cohabit in this group and tensions run high under stressful conditions.

3:15 PM
Germany, Filmmaker: Marc Wiese, Year: 2012, 104 min
*Selection of the Human Rights Watch Film Traveling Film Festival


Camp 14 - Total Control Zone
Camp 14 – Total Control Zone is a fascinating portrait of a young man who grew up imprisoned by dehumanizing violence yet still found the will to escape. Born inside a North Korean prison camp as the child of political prisoners, Shin Dong-Huyk was raised in a world where all he knew was punishment, torture, and abuse. Filmmaker Marc Wiese crafts his documentary by quietly drawing details from Shin in a series of interviews in which Shin's silence says as much as his words. Weaving anecdotes from a former camp guard and a member of the secret police with powerful animated scenes capturing key moments in Shin's life, Wiese pulls audiences into Shin's world. Shin escapes and becomes a human rights 'celebrity,' but as we see, his life outside the camp is often just as challenging as it was inside it.Official Selection Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival 2012 and Toronto International Film Festival 2012.


5:30 PM
USA/Gaza Strip, Palestine, Filmmakers: Nitin Sawhney and Roger Hill, Year: 2013, 71 min
Q&A with filmmaker Roger Hill

Flying Paper
Flying Paper is the uplifting story of Palestinian children in Gaza on a quest to shatter the Guinness World Record for the most kites ever flown. It showcases the creative resilience of these children making and flying kites despite the difficult realities they face in their daily lives. The film has been co-produced with young Palestinians in Gaza trained by the filmmakers through a youth media program called Voices Beyond Walls. Through the perspective of children and young people comes a story of determination and artistic expression as the youth in the film work together to achieve a shared goal. While the record-breaking event is what drives the film's narrative arc, it is the everyday stories of the young kite makers that will touch audiences through their humor and playful spirit. The film seeks to humanize the conflict through a touching cinematic rendering of the fascinating kite culture among children as a form of creative resistance in Gaza.


7:15 PM
Mexico, Filmmaker: Shula Erenberg, Year: 2013, 70 min
Q&A with director Shula Erenberg

The documentary is a portrait of Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, a woman whose son disappeared at the hands of the security forces in 1975 in the city of Monterrey and whose life was transformed forever. She became an indefatigable and emblematic activist searching for her disappeared son and dedicating her life to the struggle for social change and the defense of human rights in Mexico.

Saturday, April 5

11:00 AM
USA, Filmmaker(s): Lisa Biagiotti, Duy Linh Tu and Joe Lindquist, Year: 2013, 72 min

*Selection of the Human Rights Watch Film Traveling Film Festival
Q&A with Gloria Crowell, Chair of the AIDS Ministry, Allen Temple Baptist Church

Deep South
Deep south explores the rural American South and the people who inhabit its most distant corners. Beneath layers of history, poverty, and now soaring HIV infections, four Americans redefine traditional Southern values to create their own solutions to survive. Josh, a college student, seeks the support of an underground gay family miles from his suffocating Mississippi Delta hometown. With no funds and few resources, Monica and Tammy tirelessly try to unite reluctant participants at their annual HIV retreat in rural Louisiana. Kathie, an Alabama activist, spends 120 days every year on the road fighting a bureaucracy that continues to ignore the South. Each of these stories shares a particular perspective on life with HIV in a region of the United States often ignored by politicians and the public – a point of view that turns out to be both educational and inspirational.


12:45 PM
Spain, Filmmaker: Joan Lopez Lloret, Year: 2012, 81 min
Q&A with Christian Figueroa, Filmmaker

La Ciguena Metalica
Twenty years have passed since the signing of the Peace Agreements of the Salvadoran Civil War, a conflict between the army and the FMLN guerrillas. Armed forces' operations in rural areas had devastating consequences for the civilian population, with thousands of dead and disappeared people. In the midst of the war, "la cigueña metálica" (the mechanic stork) determined the destiny of Ana Lilian, Ricardo y Blanca: Ricardo's adoption by a military family, Ana Lilian's wandering after surviving the massacre of her entire family, Blanca's arrival to Spain. In the 1980s, they were disappeared children. Today, they try to understand their past to bring peace to their future.


2:45 PM
USA, Filmmaker(s): Christopher Oscar, Doug Hecker, Mike Fischer, Year: 2013, 60 min
Q&A with Andy Lee Roth, Associate Director, Project Censored

Project Censored the Movie: Ending the Reign of Junk Food News
The film takes a closer look at what is wrong with the news media in the US today and highlights the work of 37 year media democracy organization and media research program at Sonoma State University, also called Project Censored, and their commitment to media literacy education as an antidote to top-down, managed news propaganda and censorship. The movie explores media censorship in our society by exposing important stories that corporate media fails to report. It looks at the under-reported stories and proliferation of what Project Censored likes to call “junk-food news,” the endless pipeline of light stories about Tiger Woods’ paramours or the latest Kardashian divorce rum. Every year, Project Censored uses investigative research to create a ranking and summary of the 25 most censored or underreported news stories of the previous year, publishing a book each September.


4:15 PM
UK, Filmmaker: Marc Silver, Year: 2012, 85 min

Who Is Dayani Cristal?
Deep in the sun-blistered Sonora desert beneath a cicada tree, Arizona border police discover a decomposing male body. Lifting a tattered T-shirt, they expose a tattoo that reads “Dayani Cristal”. Who is this person? What brought him here? How did he die? And who—or what—is Dayani Cristal? Following a team of dedicated staff from the Pima County Morgue in Arizona, director Marc Silver seeks to answer these questions and give this anonymous man an identity. As the forensic investigation unfolds, Mexican actor and activist Gael Garcia Bernal retraces this man’s steps along the migrant trail in Central America. In an effort to understand what it must have felt like to make this final journey, he embeds himself among migrant travelers on their own mission to cross the border. He experiences first-hand the dangers they face and learns of their motivations, hopes and fears. As we travel north, these voices from the other side of the border wall give us a rare insight into the human stories which are so often ignored in the immigration debate. Who Is Dayani Cristal? tells the story of a migrant who found himself in the deadly stretch of desert known as “the corridor of death” and shows how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration. As the real-life drama unfolds we see this John Doe, denied an identity at his point of death, become a living and breathing human being with an important life story. Winner of the Sundance 2013 Cinematography award and nominated in the World Documentary Competition, “Who is Dayani Cristal?” has been described by The Hollywood Reporter as “A deeply moving doc [which] finds a new way of making the immigration debate personal.”


6:15 PM
THE ACT OF KILLING (The Director's Cut)
Indonesia, Filmmaker(s): Joshua Oppenheimer Year: 2012, 159 min
Q&A with director Joshua Oppenheimer via Skype
*Nominee, Best Documentary Feature, Academy Award 2014

The Act of Killing
A true cinematic experiment, The Act of Killing explores a chapter of Indonesia's history in a way bound to stir debate—by enlisting a group of former killers, including Indonesian paramilitary leader Anwar Congo, to re-enact their lives in the style of the films they love. When the government of President Sukarno was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his cohorts joined in the mass murder of more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals. Now, Anwar and his team perform detailed re-enactments of their crimes with pride, holding numerous discussions about sets, costumes, and pyrotechnics. Their fixation on style rather than substance—despite the ghastly nature of the scenes—makes them mesmerising to watch. But as movie violence and real-life violence begin to overlap, Anwar's pride gradually gives way to regret. And we see a man overwhelmed by the horrific acts he has chosen to share with the world. Official Selection at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and winner of the 2013 Berlin Film Festival Panorama Audience Award – documentary film. The Act of Killing website: