Program Schedule

The USF Human Rights Film Festival is located at Xavier Auditorium in Fromm Hall and is free and open to the public March 26, 27, 28, 2020. 

Thursday, March 26 

9:55 am


Q&A: Student Filmmakers

Eliza Otto, 5.5 min.
A film that highlights a USF student’s experience as a DACA student.

Victoria Hunt, 4.5 min.
A film that exposes the struggles of needing to work as a college student.

Lynh Ngyuen, 2 min.
An interview with a dancer that defies mainstream expectations of dance.

Sophia LeTourneau, 5.5 min.
A mini-documentary that follows the downfall of Harvey Weinstein.

Caley Medina & Ian Acker, 6.5 min.
A critique on the lack of support that causes high rates of recidivism in California prisons.

Michael Enos, 7 min.
A surfer’s journey to fight for preservation of the environment and public spaces at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.

Abby Asuncion, 6.5 min. 
A profile of a young woman navigating her mixed-race identity.

Dyvianne Martinez, 3 min.
A success story of the first housing cooperative formed by Ventura County farmers. 

Marisela Martinez, 8 min.
A father’s new car that becomes a symbol of Chicano pride and activism. 

Wendy Reyes, 5.5 min.
A short documentary about the history of the longest running bilingual newspaper in California, El Tecolote.

Georgia Rodger, 6.5 min.
The heartbreaking story of a young activist that inspired the creation of Creative Visions, an organization dedicated to supporting young activists.

11:30 am


Filmmakers: Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper, USA, 2019, 40 min

Q&A: Filmmaker Drea Cooper

“On the morning of November 8, 2018, a seemingly small fire broke out in Butte County, California, near the town of Paradise. Over the course of a few short hours, the Camp Fire grew into the country’s deadliest wildfire in over a century, killing 85 people and destroying Paradise” (from Hamptons International Film Festival). The film uses multiple viewpoints—first responders, 911 operators, elementary school teachers, and residents—to chronicle acts of heroism that occurred during the devastating fire. The inside story of the most destructive fire in California history, its causes and the impact of climate change. The film premiered at Telluride before winning the Audience Award at the Hamptons Film Festival.

12:45 PM

Deep Waters Pacific Film Series Shorts

Q&A: Kumu Kau’i Peralto, Native Hawaiian,`āina warrior, Mauna Kea kia`i (guardian); Malia Aiello, USF Pacific Island Collective (PIC) student activist; and TBA

Jalena Keane, USA, 2019, 15 min
Standing Above the Clouds​ is a story of inter-generational women activists, Ku Kia'i Mauna, or guardians of the mountain. The film follows three sets of mothers and daughters indigenous on the Big Island of Hawaii who find themselves standing at the forefront of the movement to safeguard their sacred mountain, Mauna a Wakea, when a construction permit is granted for an eighteen story, Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) to be built directly below the summit on pristine, untouched land.

Dan Lin, USA, 2018, 6 min
Acclaimed Marshallese poet and activist, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, explores the nuclear testing legacy of her country through the legends and stories of one particular island that houses a dark secret.

Joseph Valenti, USA, 2019, 5 min
Is the albizia tree a destructive force disrupting native ecosystems and communities in Hawaiʻi, or the material that can awaken new paradigms through thoughtful design? PARADIGM NOW dives into the journey undertaken by Joseph Valenti, founder of the Albizia Project. 

2:00 pm


Filmmaker: Feras Fayyad, Syria/Denmark/Germany/Quatar/USA, 2019, 107 min


Oscar nominee Feras Fayyad (“Last Men in Aleppo”) delivers an unflinching story of the Syrian war with his powerful new documentary, The Cave. For besieged civilians, hope and safety lie underground inside the subterranean hospital known as the Cave, where pediatrician and managing physician Dr. Amani Ballour and her colleagues Samaher and Dr. Alaa have claimed their right to work as equals alongside their male counterparts, doing their jobs in a way that would be unthinkable in the oppressively patriarchal culture that exists above. Following the women as they contend with daily bombardments, chronic supply shortages and the ever-present threat of chemical attacks, The Cave paints a stirring portrait of courage, resilience and female solidarity.

4:35 pm


Filmmaker: Christopher Toby McLeod, USA, 2014, 57 min

Q&A: Filmmaker Toby McLeod, founder of Sacred Land Film Project

In Australia’s Northern Territory, Aboriginal clans maintain Indigenous Protected Areas and resist the destructive effects of a mining boom. In Hawai`i, indigenous ecological and spiritual practices are used to restore the sacred island of Kaho`olawe after 50 years of military use as a bombing range.

*Deep Waters Pacific Film Series at USF

6:15 pm


Filmmaker: Cheryl Haines, USA, 2019, 76 minutes

Q&A: Filmmaker Cheryl Haines

Human rights become profoundly personal when dissident artist Ai Weiwei's monumental exhibition on Alcatraz inspires thousands of visitors to write messages of support to prisoners of conscience worldwide. Following Ai's detention and torture in a Chinese prison, and while still under house arrest in Beijing, the outspoken artist and activist remotely transformed a notorious former island penitentiary into a remarkable expression of socially engaged art focused on the plight of the unjustly incarcerated. The film explores the extraordinary results when prisoners received those messages, and asks us all to take the issue of global human rights to heart with simple gestures of empathy. Illuminating the little-known history of Ai's childhood spent in remote Chinese prison camps,  AI WEIWEI: YOURS TRULY connects the life of one of the world's most famous living artist with the urgency of his work on behalf of human rights everywhere. 

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Friday, March 27

9:55 am


Filmmaker: Bryan Buckley, USA, 2019, 22 min 


SARIA explores the unimaginable hardships that faced young female orphans at the Virgen de La Asuncion Safe Home in Guatemala, leading up to the tragic fire which claimed 41 of their lives in 2017. Since the fire, there has been no prison time given to any parties responsible, despite reporting from the New York Times, Guardian, Washington Post, and several other news organizations. The film follows the story of two inseparable orphaned sisters - Saria 12, and her sister Ximena 14, as they fight against mounting daily physical abuse at the very institution designed to protect them. In the sisters’ desperation for survival, they devise a daring plan of escape for all the orphans to find freedom in America. 2020 Academy Award. Nominee Best Action Short Film.

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11:00 am


Filmmaker: Tom Shepard, USA, 2019, 84 min

Q&A: USF Professor Karina Hodoyan, Modern & Classical Languages, Migration Studies, Center for Latinx Studies in the Americas (CELASA)

A feature-length documentary revealing the untold stories of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers who have fled intense persecution from their home countries and who are resettling in the United States. This film sets out to humanize a group few people know who are desperately trying to create new and safer homes. UNSETTLED takes place largely in the San Francisco Bay Area, historically a beacon for dislocated LGBT people in the U.S. While cultural narratives of a “queer promised land” still persist, the film asks whether Northern California is even practical as a place to resettle LGBT refugees, especially given the enormous gentrification, increased costs of living, and scarcity of housing in recent years—a set of problems present in many American cities. What are the costs persecuted immigrants pay for seeking refuge in America? And how are everyday Americans stepping forward to help those most in need?

1:00 pm


Filmmaker: Leonor Zuniga, 2019, Costa Rica/USA/Nicaragua, 24 min

Q&A: Filmmaker Leonor Zúniga (via Skype)

This documentary film explores the life of Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo, adoptive daughter of Daniel Ortega, leader of the Sandinista revolution and the current President of Nicaragua. The film reveals her struggle as a survivor of sexual abuse twenty years after she publicly accused Ortega of rape. We learn about her fate, her family and the impact of the accusation on her 10 years old son. The film works in two time frames, the past, using archival footage, from the time Zoilamérica made her accusation in 1998, and the present, when she is forced into exile in Costa Rica, as Daniel Ortega runs for the presidency for the fourth time with the unconditional support of Rosario Murillo, Zoilamérica’s mother and Ortega’s running mate. The film, mostly shot inside Zoilamérica’s home, delves into her exile as a form of physical and emotional isolation, which is imposed on her as punishment for daring to seek justice, confront her abuser, her family and the Sandinista party.

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2:00 pm


Filmmaker: Rachel Lears, USA, 2019, 86 min 


When tragedy struck her family in the midst of the financial crisis, Bronx-born Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to work double shifts in a restaurant to save her home from foreclosure. After losing a loved one to a preventable medical condition, Amy Vilela didn’t know what to do with the anger she felt about America’s broken health care system. Cori Bush was drawn into the streets when the police shooting of an unarmed black man brought protests and tanks into her neighborhood. Paula Jean Swearengin was fed up with watching her friends and family suffer and die from the environmental effects of the coal industry. At a moment of historic volatility in American politics, these four women decide to fight back, setting themselves on a journey that will change their lives and their country forever. Without political experience or corporate money, they build a movement of insurgent candidates challenging powerful incumbents in Congress. Their efforts result in a legendary upset. Winner of the Audience Award: U.S. Documentary and the Festival Favorite Award at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

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4:00 pm


Filmmakers: Sophie and Clement Guerra, Germany/France/USA, 2019, 82 min.


Four Indigenous leaders embark on an extraordinary trans-continental adventure from the Canadian Boreal forests to deep into the heart of the Amazonian jungle to unite the peoples of North and South America and deepen the meaning of “Climate Justice”. The Condor & The Eagle documentary offers a glimpse into a developing spiritual renaissance as the film four protagonists learn from each other’s long legacy of resistance to colonialism and its extractive economy. Their path through the jungle takes them on an unexpectedly challenging and liberating journey, which will forever change their attachment to the Earth and one another. 

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6:00 pm


Filmmaker: Patricio Guzmán, Chile/France, 2019, 85 minutes 

Q&A: USF Professor Roberto G. Varea, Performing Arts and Social Justice, Latin American Studies, Center for Latinx Studies in the Americas (CELASA)

Winner of the Best Documentary award at the Cannes Film Festival, the film completes Guzmán’s trilogy investigating the relationship between historical memory, political trauma, and geography in his native country of Chile. Guzmán contemplates the enduring legacy of the 1973 military coup d’état. Along the way, he interviews artists, writers, and documentarians, drawing out their conflicted feelings towards the Cordillera and its relationship to Chilean national identity and history. Looking at both the past and future, Guzmán’s work rescues Chile from the threat of historical amnesia. He considers how the neoliberal economic policies introduced under the Pinochet regime have continued to stratify Chilean society along increasingly rigid class lines. The Cordillera of Dreams moves beyond despair and looks towards the possibilities of political change by linking the ideological struggles of the past with the inequalities of the present.

Saturday, March 28

11:00 AM


Filmmakers: Michael Toledano and Sam Vinal , Canada, 2019, 18min


In this era of “reconciliation”, Indigenous land is still being taken at gunpoint. INVASION is a new film about the Unist’ot’en Camp, Gidimt’en checkpoint and the larger Wet'suwet'en Nation standing up to the Canadian government and corporations who continue colonial violence against Indigenous people. The Unist'ot'en Camp has been a beacon of resistance for nearly 10 years. It is a healing space for Indigenous people and settlers alike, and an active example of decolonization. The violence, environmental destruction, and disregard for human rights following TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) / Coastal GasLink’s interim injunction has been devastating to bear, but this fight is far from over.

12:00 pm


Filmmaker: Melody C. Miller, USA, 2018, 93 min

Q&A: Filmmaker Melody Miller, Benita Hopkins, Co-Chair, San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking, Sarai Smith-Mazariegos, Executive Director, S.H.A.D.E Movement, and Jazmyn Brown, Advocate & Trainer, S.H.A.D.E Movement

California's Forgotten Children is an award-winning feature documentary that follows a diverse group of resilient survivors who have overcome commercial sexual exploitation of children and are changing the world by ensuring no child is left behind. The film features stories from leaders in the movement such as Time 100 Most Influential People Withelma "T" Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, attorney Carissa Phelps, academic scholar Minh Dang, activist Leah Albright-Byrd, therapist Nikolaos Al-Khadra, and educator Rachel Thomas, M. Ed. The film supports the stories of survivors with current statistics and perspectives of sexual exploitation from professionals in social services, law enforcement, advocates, and child welfare. It focuses on those who were wrongfully criminalized in the judicial system; manipulated and coerced by family, friends, and caretakers; and exploited by multiple slavery industries. ​ The film won Best Documentary at the Soho International Film Festival in New York, screened at the United States Senate and the United State of Women Summit.

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Filmmaker: Tony Gapastione, USA, 2017, 11 min

A homeless man uncovers a dirty little secret in Suburbia.

*San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking Films at USF.

2:30 pm


Filmmaker: Jayson McNamara, Argentina/Australia, 2017, 102 min


The only newspaper that demanded answers about the human rights crimes committed by Argentina’s 1976-1983 was the small and unassuming English-language community newspaper “The Buenos Aires Herald”. Its editor, Robert Cox, led the charge by publishing hundreds of articles that exposed the complex system of repression the military used against young left-wing activists and militants. Thanks to Cox, the world learned about the “disappeared ones” and their brave mothers, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. But his work would come at a cost. Years of threats against him and his family culminated in a letter to his 11-year-old son and Cox was forced to abandon the country. A documentary that portrays the courage of a journalist in the face of violence, censorship, misinformation and the complicity of media organizations with the state during Argentina's darkest hour.

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4:45 pm

On the President's Orders

Filmmakers: James Jones and Olivier Sarbil, UK/USA, 2019, 72 min


In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte announced a “war on drugs” in the Philippines, launching a wave of violence and murder targeting thousands of suspected drug dealers and users. With unprecedented, intimate access both to police officials implicated in the killings and the families destroyed as the result of Duterte’s deadly campaign, On the President’s Orders is a shocking and revelatory investigation into the extrajudicial murders. Entering a murky world of crime, drugs and politics, the filmmakers have managed to capture the clear trajectory of what depths those who wield excessive power can reach, when attacking those who have the very least. Shot in the style of a thriller, this observational film combines the look and feel of a narrative feature film with a real life revelatory journalistic investigation into a campaign of killings - and reveal that although the police have been publicly ordered to stop extra-judicial killings, the deaths continue.

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6:30 pm

Voice of The Rohingya

Filmmaker: Kylie Zarmati (USF Student), USA, 2019, 50 min

Q&A: Filmmaker Kylie Zarmati

A film that listens to the story of the Rohingya refugees, a voice that has largely gone ignored by the international community. The film highlights the plight of the Rohingya during the genocide initiated by the Buddhist Myanmar military, observes the everyday situation of their existence in what is the world's largest refugee camp, and looks at the larger political climate surrounding the crisis. The Rohingya live in a very precarious time without citizenship to any country and a lack of basic freedoms. With a new case in the International Court of Justice and a deep desire to eventually return to their homeland, Voice of The Rohingya glimpses at the fate that awaits this resilient community.