Impugning Impugnity: ALBA hosts Human Rights films

March 21, 2014
Eugene Hütz, frontman of the Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, featured in Let Fury Have the Hour

Eugene Hütz, frontman of the Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, featured in Let Fury Have the Hour

Curated by ALBA’s Executive Director Marina Garde, the series sparked dialogue on human rights issues through the presentation of acclaimed documentaries exploring such topics as governmental abuse of power, historical memory, civil rights and racial inequality. Each movie shares a common link: telling the untold stories typically silenced by history’s revisionist winners.

The screenings opened with the Sundance Film Festival award winning documentary, Dirty Wars directed by Richard Rowley, which has since been nominated for a Hollywood Academy Award. Revelations of US secret military operations overseas left audiences with a haunting question: why is the most powerful government in the world so keen to perpetuate this war, which is kept secret from the public? The documentary was a provocative start to the festival, implicating American viewers as witnesses to a formally hidden reality.

From a political landscape close to home, the festival’s second day included stories in the international arena. The Tiniest Place, sponsored by Ambulante, focuses on a community rebuilding and reinventing itself after tragedy. Directed by Tatiana Huezo, the film recounts a massacre in Cinquera, a village wiped off the map during El Salvador’s 12-year civil war. A different type of film depicted the life of Lincoln vet Abe Osheroff in American Renegade: Confessions of a Radical Humanist, directed by Scott Garren, and brought the frontlines of 20th century social activism into focus. Another eye-opening film was ISN 310: Djamel Ameziane’s Decade in Guantanamo directed by Mark Casebow and produced by the Center for Constitutional Rights. This film tells the story of Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian citizen, who after fleeing from a bloody Algerian Civil War ended imprisoned in Guantánamo without being charged for more than 10 years. Despite formally requesting he not be sent back to Algeria (fearing persecution if repatriated), Djamel was transferred to Algeria a few days after this screening. The last film that day was A Class Apart, a revealing documentary by Carlos Sandoval and Peter Miller, about a landmark Supreme Court case addressing discrimination suffered by Mexican-Americans in Texas during the first part of the 20th century.

The Land of Eb, the only non-documentary included in the series and filmmaker Andrew Williamson’s debut, is based on a true story on the radioactive fall-out on a native people. The film follows a Marshallese immigrant in Hawaii who struggles with the after-effects of Cold War nuclear testing; he must cope with his illness while struggling to provide for his family. Last in the series, Let Fury Have the Hour directed by Antonino D’Ambrosio, presented artists and musicians from around the world who were inspired to their creative work as a form of protest against the politics of the 1980’s. The producer’s grandfather was Jack Bjoze, a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

This third edition of Impugning Impunity was sponsored by the Puffin Foundation, Veterans for Peace, the Center for Constitutional Rights, The New Press, and Icarus Films, among others. It reminds viewers that Human Rights activism is timeless, not merely a notion of the past. As one of the farmers in The Tiniest Place says, “A people that has memory is a people that is more difficult to be subdued.“

Igor Moreno Unanua is a Spanish journalist based in New York. He currently collaborates with Democracy Now! en Español focusing on social issues, history and community radio.

Latest news: ALBA has been awarded a grant by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Decentralization Program of the New York State Council for our 2014 “Impugning Impunity: A Human Rights Documentary Film Series.”