Wantoks: Dance of Resilience in Melanesia
Year: 2019 | 20 min
Genre: Documentary Short
Language(s): English, French
Directed by: Iara Lee
Country of Origin: Solomon Islands
In 2018 the Solomon Islands, in the South Pacific, hosted the Melanesian Arts & Cultural Festival, celebrating the country’s 40th anniversary of independence. On neighboring island states, the struggle for freedom continues, as West Papua resists Indonesian occupation and the residents of New Caledonia still live under French rule. In all Melanesian countries, residents face the common challenge of climate change, as rising sea levels threaten to swallow both land and tradition. In this charged context, captivating performers are using their talents to celebrate local culture and draw international attention to their islands’ plight, with the hope of spurring international solidarity and prompting collective action against the perils of a warming world.
Iara Lee, a Brazilian of Korean descent, is an activist, filmmaker, and founder/director of the Cultures of Resistance Network, an organization that promotes global solidarity and connects and supports agitators, educators, farmers, and artists to build a more just and peaceful world through creative resistance and nonviolent action!
As a filmmaker, Iara has directed/produced several full-length documentaries and dozens of short films over the past decade.
Her next film, entitled WANTOKS: DANCE OF RESILIENCE IN MELANESIA, which highlights the Melanesian performers who are using their talents to celebrate local culture and draw international attention to their islands’ fight against climate change, is scheduled to premiere in May 2019. Her latest documentaries were shot in West Africa: BURKINABÈ RISING (2018), about the intersection of art and politics in Burkina Faso, and BURKINABÈ BOUNTY (2018), on agroecology in Burkina Faso. She currently has three other projects in post-production: STALKING CHERNOBYL, a film examining the underground culture of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone three decades after the world’s most infamous nuclear disaster; FROM TRASH TO TREASURE, a short documentary on turning negatives into positives in Lesotho; and THE SAMI’S SONG OF SURVIVAL, a short documentary about indigenous resistance on the arctic frontier.
In 2015, Iara completed two documentaries: K2 AND THE INVISIBLE FOOTMEN, shot in stunning northern Pakistan, chronicles the plight of the indigenous porters of majestic K2, the earth’s second-highest peak. LIFE IS WAITING: Referendum and Resistance in Western Sahara looks at more than forty years of Moroccan occupation and the Sahrawi nonviolent struggle for self-determination by a people for whom colonialism has never ended.
In 2013, Iara finished a series of three short films on indigenous rights: BATTLE FOR THE XINGU, which highlights the spectacular determination of the Amazon people to protect their way of life; THE RAPE OF THE SAMBURU WOMEN, which illuminates the situation facing women in the Samburu region of Kenya, where England has maintained military training facilities for more than fifty years; and THE KALASHA AND THE CRESCENT, which chronicles how this indigenous minority in northern Pakistan responded to the challenges facing their culture.
In 2012, Iara directed THE SUFFERING GRASSES: when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers, which examines the Syrian conflict through the humanity of the civilians who have been killed, abused, and displaced to the squalor of refugee camps.
In May 2010, Iara was a passenger on the MV Mavi Marmara, a vessel in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was attacked in international waters by the Israeli navy, leading to the murder of nine humanitarian aid workers. Among the many people who recorded the events on that ship, her crew was the only one to successfully hide and retain most of the raid footage, which she later released to the world after a screening at the United Nations. Iara is dedicated to the support of Palestinian civilians who have been victims of war crimes committed by the Israeli military and who suffer from the Israeli government’s ongoing acts of collective punishment.
At the onset of the Iraq war in 2003, Iara decided to live in the MENA region (Middle East & North Africa) in order to understand the conflict from that perspective. She spent extensive time in Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Jordan, and Lebanon, where she experienced firsthand Israel’s 34-day bombardment of that country in 2006. Moved by that experience, she has since dedicated herself to the pursuit of a just peace in the region, and she is an enthusiastic supporter of those initiatives which strengthen adherence to international law. In 2008, Iara lived in Iran and supported a number of cultural exchange projects with the goal of promoting arts and culture for global solidarity. Her experiences in the Middle East led her to travel to other corners of the global South and culminated in the production of her feature-length documentary CULTURES OF RESISTANCE (2010), which explores how creative action contributes to conflict prevention and resolution worldwide.
From 1984 to 1989, Iara was the producer of the Sao Paulo International Film Festival in Brazil. From 1989 to 2003, she was based in New York City, where she ran the mixed-media company Caipirinha Productions, created to explore the synergy of different art forms, such as film, music, architecture, and poetry. Under that banner, Iara directed short and feature-length documentaries including SYNTHETIC PLEASURES, MODULATIONS, ARCHITETTURA, BENEATH THE BORQA, AN AUTUMN WIND, and PRUFROCK.
Iara is a long-time supporter of Greenpeace, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, and many organizations around the world through the Cultures of Resistance Network.
Jack and Anna
Year: 2019 | 15 min
Genre: Student Filmmaker
Directed by: Ksenia Ivanova
Country of Origin: United States
“Jack and Anna” is an MFA thesis film based on true events that happened in the early 1900s in Colorado. It tells a story of a young couple who live a happy life on their farm when suddenly a man from the past reveals Jack’s biggest secret – that he is, in fact, a woman named Helen Hilsher. After the revelation Helen is put on trial for cross-dressing and same-sex marriage.
“Jack and Anna” is a film that explores intimacy and love in the face of a rigid society that would reject the main characters for who they are. The story explores the power of love and how it doesn’t matter what your sex is. We live in a world where the LGBT community is still being treated unfairly. We also live in a world where women are treated unfairly.
With this film, I hope to shed a little light on these issues, and I hope that one day we don’t have to worry about these problems. All my films are about people, mostly women, who confront a difficult life situation and fight for their life and happiness. This is why it was so important for me to make this film. The story of “Jack and Anna” is unique because there are not many stories that honestly portray the struggles of the LGBT community. They struggle with their own fears on the way to self-identity, but they also have to fight against people who don’t accept them. It makes their choice to fight for their happiness in 1913 even more powerful, because at that time it wasn’t even possible.
Year: 2019 | 85 min
Genre: Narrative Feature
Directed by: Sonia Bonspille Boileau
Country of Origin: Canada
Set in the late 90s, “Rustic Oracle” is a dramatic feature about Ivy, an 8-year-old girl trying to understand what happened to her big sister who has vanished from their small Mohawk community. With minimal clues, Ivy and her mother Susan embark on an unwelcome journey to find Heather which will ultimately bring the pair closer together despite challenging circumstances. Behind the story of desperation, told through the eyes of a child, lies one of hope, growth, awakening and love.
My goal as an Indigenous Canadian filmmaker is to tell stories that appeal to both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population, but also stories that build bridges between the two by creating relatable and realistic characters that portray the dynamic and relationship amongst these groups. With this short film I want to illustrate the beauty of complicity between two people from different worlds, I want to show how we can easily connect and find common ground when we do not reveal where we come from.
I think that by creating a bond between a First Nation character and a Caucasian character, the film has the ability to spark dialogue between the two communities. This minimalist encounter speaks loudly and addresses a larger issue; which is the need for complicity and collaboration between the dominant “white” culture and Indigenous peoples. That being said, the reality is, no matter how strong those connections are or how powerful the attraction is, our emotions get trumped by our core values when they are thrown back into the social context in which Indigenous peoples currently live in. Often as Indigenous women we must put our convictions before our own personal feelings: Integrity becomes more powerful than love.
I am a firm believer in the power of seeing strong Indigenous female characters on screen. Personally, I am tired of seeing pushover or stereotypical female characters in television and in film. The fact that Joyce is a strong leader in her community, who takes matters in her own hands, who believes in her convictions regardless of her emotions, is a powerful message for Indigenous women. She is an activist, she is educated, articulate, and she is a mother and a grandmother. While making my first feature film Le dep, I realized how important it was to have strong female roles on screen that we can identify with. I want to continue applying this in my future projects and hope to have accomplished this with “Rustic Oracle.”
The mission of the North Dakota Human Rights Film Festival is to educate, engage, and facilitate discussion around local and worldwide human rights topics through the work of filmmakers and artists. The festival is a non-partisan event, and all are welcome and encouraged to attend. 2019 is the third year for the festival.
In 2019, the North Dakota Human Rights Film Festival will take place in four major cities in North Dakota. The official dates of the festival are: afternoon and evening sessions on Friday, November 1 and Saturday, November 2 in Bismarck at the Heritage Center and State Museum; afternoon and evening sessions on Tuesday, November 5 at the historic Empire Theater; afternoon and evening sessions on Thursday, November 7 and Friday, November 8 at the historic Fargo Theatre; and closing on Tuesday, November 12 in Minot for an evening screening at the historic Oak Park Theater.
The 2019 North Dakota Human Rights Film Festival is made possible through the generosity of Final Draft, iPitch.tv, and through partnerships with Chamber Six Media, J&S Productions, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, the NDSU Memorial Gallery, the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition.