13th Human Rights Film Festival at USF
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Sunrise over Lone Mountain stairs

Film Descriptions

13th Annual USF Human Rights Film Festival

April 9 - 11, 2015 (Thurs - Sat)
Presentation Theater, 2350 Turk Boulevard at Masonic
FREE | Open to the public 


Thursday, April 9

The Homestretch *

10:30 a.m.
Filmmaker(s): Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly, USA, 2014 / 89 min

The Homestretch

This film follows three homeless teens in Chicago as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future. Each of these smart, ambitious teenagers—Roque, Kasey, and Anthony—will surprise, inspire, and challenge audiences to rethink stereotypes of homelessness as they work to complete their education while facing the trauma of being alone and abandoned at an early age. Through haunting images, intimate scenes, and first-person narratives, the teens take us on their journeys of struggle and triumph. As their stories unfold, the film connects us to larger issues of poverty, race, juvenile justice, immigration, foster care, and LGBT rights. The Homestretch is a powerful, original perspective on what it means to be young, homeless, and building a future in America today.



12:00 p.m.
Program Curator: Daniel Plotnick + Erika Myszynski
Q&A with Student Filmmakers


2014, 2:57 min, Filmmaker: Raissa Reis
This film takes the viewer through the journey of two young women as they discover their sexuality. It explores people's tendencies to live in fear rather than in the open about their sexuality.

2014, 5:15 min, Filmmakers: Riley Covington + Brittany Roker*
Homeless are often ignored or disregarded by their communities and seen not the struggling people they are. People on the Streets aims to end this by examining the lives and issues surrounding homeless youth in San Francisco, particularly within the LGBTQA community.
*Featuring: Aly Mullenix and Ivan Alomar

2014, 5:00 min, Filmmaker: Melissa Serrano
Latinas y su Educación is a documentary film offering insight on women who want to succeed. Specifically, the film highlights three USF students sharing their personal experiences as Latinas pursuing higher education and offering advice to the women who come after them.

2013, 11:30 min, Filmmakers: Ellie Vanderlip + Sonia Tagare
While industrial agriculture abuses the rights of its undocumented employees with low wages and a dangerous work environment, small organically-run farms provide a safe haven with steady work, fair payment, and healthy conditions for both workers and their families. Pastures of Plenty profiles one of these farms in particular and examines the positive change the organic system has brought to these farmworkers' lives.



Big Men *

1:15 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Rachel Boynton, Nigeria/USA, 2013 / 99 min

Big Men

A cautionary tale about the toll of American oil investment in West Africa, Big Men reveals the secretive worlds of both corporations and local communities in Nigeria and Ghana. Director Rachel Boynton gained unprecedented access to oil companies in Africa and has created a gripping account of the ambition, corruption, and greed that epitomize Africa's 'resource curse. The film deftly uncovers the human impact of oil drilling and contains remarkable footage, in particular of militants operating in the Niger Delta. It provides a nuanced and compelling illustration of the responsibility that a range of actors bear for the environmental, economic, and political harm inflicted by resource extraction.


The Hunting Ground

sneak preview
3:30 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Kirby Dick, USA, 2015 / 90 min

The Hunting Ground

From the makers of The Invisible War comes a startling expose of rape crimes on US campuses, their institutional cover-ups, and the devastating toll they take on students and their families. Weaving together footage and first person testimonies, the film follows the lives of several undergraduate assault survivors as they attempt to pursue - despite incredible push back, harassment and traumatic aftermath - both their education and justice.


Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine

5:30 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Michele Josue, USA, 2014 / 80 min

Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine

This film is a powerful feature documentary about Matthew Shepard, the gay young man who was tortured and murdered in one of the most notorious hate crimes in U.S. history. Directed by Michele Josue, a close friend of Shepards’, the film revisits the shocking case with never-before-seen photos, rare video footage, and new revelations about Shepard's all-too-brief life.


Sepideh - Reaching for the Stars *

7:30 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Berit Madsen, Iran/USA, 2013 / 88 min

Sepideh- Reaching for the Stars

Sepideh is a young Iranian woman who dares to dream—of a future as an astronaut. At night, she stares up at the universe. At home, full of hope and longing, she watches recordings of the first female Iranian in space, Anousheh Ansari. When her father died suddenly six years earlier, Sepideh discovered that she could feel closer to him by watching the stars. And so her dream was born. But not everyone appreciates her boundless ambition. After all, becoming an astronaut is not exactly a normal goal for a girl in Iran. Her mother and uncle are worried about the emancipated young woman. She doesn't want to learn to cook, hardly ever visits her family, and doesn't seem to be thinking about marriage at all. As we follow Sepideh, it becomes clear just how at odds her dreams are with her current reality and the expectations of those around her.



Friday, April 10

Alfredo's Fire

10:30 A.M.
Filmmaker(s): Andy Abrahams Wilson, Italy, USA, 2013 / 40 min

Alfredo's Fire

Fifteen years ago, an Italian gay writer shocked the world by setting himself on fire in St. Peter's Square as a protest against the Vatican's condemnation of homosexuality. Years later, his gesture faded into obscurity.What is the flame he ignited and how deep are its shadows? By unraveling this tragic story, ALFREDO'S FIRE highlights the issue of religious intolerance, which burns as strong and deadly as ever at the crossroads of faith and sexuality.



12:00 p.m.
Program Curator: Erika Myszynski
Q&A with Alumni Filmmakers

2013, 14:30 min, Filmmakers: Michael Kuba (‘12 Alumn) [Camera, Editing]  + Pedro Lange [USF Faculty, Director, Editing]*
In the wake of The Hague’s International Tribunal’s decision to grant Nicaragua part of the territorial waters of San Andrés (Colombia’s island in the Caribbean). This short’s suggestive photography captures a sense of quiet despair present in the ruinous spaces of the island and in the impassiveness of its inhabitants who seem to eternally wait for a solution to their problems.
*Produced as a Digital Short Experimental Documentary

2014, 20:30 min, Filmmakers: Alexandra Kotcheff (‘09 Alumna) + Sam Vinal (‘10, Alumn)
Lockdown Logline: Activists in Texas are determined to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline from being built. After a tree sit fails to stop construction, two activists plan to lock their arms to heavy machinery in order to disrupt pipeline work.


2015, 3:52 min, Executive Producer: Manuela Vasconcelos (‘13 Alumna) in partnership with Jonathan Remple + What Took You So Long Organization*
African Prisons Project is a young charity founded to improve the welfare, health and education of detainees in Africa. APP, with support from the Undergraduate Laws Programme of the University of London, has worked to provide access to learning opportunities, via distance learning, for prison staff and inmates in Kenya and Uganda. Currently, 30 prisoners and staff are participation in the legal degree program. Visit for more information.
*Camera: Nate Mook & Alicia Sully
Editor: Nate Mook
Music: Second Class Citizen by Dexter Britain

2015, 25:00 min,  Filmmaker: Erika Myszynski (‘11 Alumna + ‘15, Graduate Alumna Candidate, Urban Affairs) [Director, Camera, Editor]*
What does national service look like at a local level? Cities are the most common site of return for veterans. How can the urban environment serve the veteran? People and the surrounding community --- the public --- are vital in the homecoming process. The film serves as a robust profile of one military "family" as the human infrastructure in an urban landscape freckled with military fortifications. The film plays with the relationship between person and place --- human and "home.” A story about "dress blues," fighting the blues, and acquired partnerships. The public is generally unable to relate to the veteran geography; this is an accessible opportunity for intimate connection.  
*Sound Supervisor: Michael Restrepo
Video Contributions: Michael Restrepo, Karim Iliya ('12 Alumn), + Alexander Crook ('12 Alumn)
Produced for: Urban Affairs Capstone, M.A. in Urban Affairs, University of San Francisco + The Veteran Visions Project




A Quiet Inquisition *

1:30 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Alessandra Zeka and Holen Sabrina Kahn, Nicaragua-USA, 2014 / 65 min

A Quiet Inquisition

At a public hospital in Nicaragua, OBGYN Dr. Carla Cerrato must choose between following a law that bans all abortions and endangers her patients or taking a risk and providing the care that she knows can save a woman's life. In 2007, Dr. Cerrato's daily routine took a detour. The newly elected government of Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist revolutionary who converted to Catholicism to win votes, overturned a 130-year-old law protecting therapeutic abortion. The new law entirely prohibits abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman's life is at stake. As Carla and her colleagues navigate this dangerous dilemma, the impact of this law emerges—illuminating the tangible reality of prohibition against the backdrop of a political, religious, and historically complex national identity. The emotional core of the story—the experiences and situations of the young women and girls who are seeking care—illustrate the ethical implications of one doctor's response.


Return to Homs *

3:00 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Talal Derki, Syria-Germany, 2013 / 80 min

Return to Homs

Filmed between August 2011 and August 2013, Return to Homs is a remarkably intimate portrait of a group of young revolutionaries in the city of Homs in western Syria. They dream of their country being free from President Bashar al-Assad and fight for justice through peaceful demonstrations. As the army acts ever more brutally and their city transforms into a ghost town, the young men begin to take up arms. The close-up camerawork takes the viewer right into the city and scenes of grim battles in a deserted city soon replace those of lively protest parties in the streets. World Cinema Grand Jury Prize Documentary, Sundance Film Festival 2014 Courtesy of Proaction Film


Aquí Y Allá

5:00 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Antonio Méndez Esparza, Spain, 2012 / 110 min

Aquí Y Allá

"AQUÍ": Pedro returns home to a small mountain village in Guerrero, Mexico after years of working in the US. He finds his daughters older, and more distant than he imagined. Having saved some earnings from two trips to the US, he hopes to now finally make a better life with his family, and even to pursue his dreams on the side by starting a band: Copa Kings. He cherishes the everyday moments with his family. "ALLÁ": The villagers think this year's crop will be bountiful. There is also good work in a growing city an hour away. But the locals are wise to a life of insecurity, and their thoughts are often of family members or opportunities far away, north of the border. While working in the fields, Pedro meets and begins to mentor a teenager who dreams of the US.


The Land of Many Palaces

7:30 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): co-directed Adam James Smith and Song Ting, co-produced by Adam James Smith, Song Ting and Wang Qihan, China, 2014/ 90 min

The Land of Many Palaces

In Ordos, China, thousands of farmers are being relocated into a new city under a government plan to modernize the region. “The Land of Many Palaces” follows a government official whose job is to convince these farmers that their lives will be better off in the city, and a farmer in one of the last remaining villages in the region who is pressured to move. The film explores a process that will take shape on an enormous scale across China, since the central government announced plans to relocate 250,000,000 farmers to cities across the nation, over the next 20 years.



Saturday, April 11

Private Violence *

12:00 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Cynthia Hill, USA, 2013 / 81 min

Private Violence

Private Violence explores a simple but deeply disturbing fact of American life: the most dangerous place for a woman in America is her own home. Every day in the US, at least four women are murdered by abusive (and often, ex) partners. Through the eyes of two survivors—Deanna Walters, a mother who seeks justice for the crimes committed against her at the hands of her estranged husband, and Kit Gruelle, an advocate who seeks justice for all women—we bear witness to the complex realities of intimate partner violence. Private Violence begins to shape powerful, new questions that hold the potential to change our society: "Why does he abuse?" "Why do we turn away?" "How do we begin to build a future without domestic violence?"


Scheherazade’s Diary *

1:30 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Zeina Daccache, Lebanon, 2013 / 80 min

Scheherazade’s Diary

This engaging tragicomic documentary follows women inmates through a 10- month drama therapy/theater project set up in 2012 by director Zeina Daccache at the Baabda Prison in Lebanon. Through their unprecedented theater initiative, entitled Scheherazade in Baabda, these "murderers of husbands, adulterers and drug felons" reveal their stories—tales of domestic violence, traumatic childhoods, failed marriages, forlorn romances, and deprivation of motherhood. The women of Baabda Prison share their personal stories, and in doing so, hold up a mirror to Lebanese society and all societies that repress women.


Women Under Suspicion

3:30 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Cecilia Montagut, Spain, 2013 / 10 min

Women Under Suspicion

These two films will be presented together as part of a reflection on the oppressive situation of women under the Franco regime in Spain. Compelling and provocative, these documentaries feature issues related to women ́s lives, ranging from sexuality, sexual preference and the patriarchal construction of women ́s domestic and public roles during a dictatorship spanning decades. These works complement the revealing and on-going project Women under Suspicion. Memory and Sexuality (1930-1980), coordinated by Raquel Osborne since 2013. The screening will follow a presentation by Prof. Aránzazu Borrachero Mendíbil.



5:30 p.m.
Filmmaker(s): Laura Bari, Argentina-Canada, 2013 / 95 min


This feature documentary follows 33-year-old Ariel after his legs are shredded by an industrial dough mixer in Mendoza, Argentina. Ariel embodies the ongoing duel between man and machine: he eventually sets out to rebuild his broken identity, keep his family together and design his own artificial legs. Ariel’s newfound transhumanity is represented in a juxtaposition of his daily life with dreamlike inner worlds, pushing the boundary between the real and the imaginary. This story of healing and transformation is an introspective journey tinged with touches of magic realism.


* Selections from the Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival