It was pure pleasure to review the submissions to this year’s Film & Video Festival. The final selections are a testimony to the long-standing quality of work that has been the hallmark of the past 40 years.
Returning to the Festival we have Oscar-nominated filmmakers Tod Lending, with Omar and Pete, a personal account of two men attempting to remain out of prison and Roger Weisberg, with Waging a Living, where we are introduced to hard working people for whom the American Dream is being deferred.
We have two entries from the Frontline television series; cautionary, yet hopeful, The New Asylums looks at mental illness and incarceration and Ghosts of Rwanda serves as a stark reminder of the vigilance and responsibilities of the global community.
While many of this year’s films address U.S. interests and responsibilities abroad, perhaps the impact of our international policies on our youth is most explicit in All That I Can Be, a youth-produced film that looks at military recruitment. The controversial war in Iraq, along with the meaning of democracy, is the focus of My Country, My Country, a heroic account of an Iraqi citizen attempting to run for political office.
We also look beyond our borders with Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, a film that sheds light on a devastating, yet little known human rights issue and Buyer Be Fair, a film that provides very real solutions to globalization and free trade.
We crisscross our southern border with another solution-based film, The Sixth Section, to discover the remarkable community development work of a hometown association and we share the hopes, dreams, and despair of an itinerant musician in Romántico.
Issues of identity are at the heart of both The Grace Lee Project, a funny, yet thought provoking quest and In My Shoes: Stories of Youth with LGBT Parents, a youth-produced film exemplifying empowerment.
Youth, empowerment, strength, and hope can also be found in Kids Care, a healing story about children who have lost a loved-one to cancer. The subjects of Kids Care were actively engaged in the production of their film as were the Girl Scouts of Troop 1500 —also partly youth-produced and equally inspirational—where we are introduced to a troop comprised of girls with incarcerated moms.
In Who is Paulo Freire? we learn not only who he is, but find out how new-found knowledge of him and his theories influence a group of inner city kids and how those kids are now holding their educators accountable.
The idea of “accountability” is, perhaps, a unifying theme that runs through not only these films, but the fine films that the Council has presented over the past 40 years. The films and the filmmakers who are compelled to tell these stories, serve as a mirror reflecting individuals and society. The films ask us to be accountable—to ourselves, to our families and friends, to our community and to the world as a whole. The foundations that have so wisely supported this work are all attempting to improve the human condition—a condition for which we are all, ultimately, held accountable.
Managing Director, Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media