The United Nations Association Film Festival is holding its International Documentary Film Festival from Oct. 18-28, 2012 in California.
AXIS OF LIGHT
Axis of Light is a poignant observation through the work of eight leading artists—
Rachid Koraichi, Jananne al-Ani, Etel Adnan, Shirin Neshat, Youssef Nabil, Mona
Hatoum, Mona Saudi and Ayman Baalbaki—to discover the beauty and mystery of the Middle East, which is often ignored, especially today where strife, anger and violence demand centre stage in our media, and where stereotypes and prejudices distort our view of this region. Through their eyes, the film moves between the worlds of both the East and the West and the past and present, exploring the meaning of their existence, identity, conflicts of sexuality, the isolation of woman and the fragility of home and place. It is a story of hope, but one that recognizes the power of expression, often against all odds.
Watch trailer here.
WORDS OF WITNESS
Every time twenty-two-year-old Heba Afify heads out to cover the historical events shaping her country's future, her mother is compelled to remind her, “I know you are a journalist, but you're still a girl!” Defying cultural norms and family expectations, Heba takes to the streets to report on an Egypt in turmoil, using tweets, texts and Facebook posts. Her coming of age, political awakening and the disillusionment that follows mirrors that of a nation seeking the freedom to shape its own destiny, dignity and democracy. Heba’s words bear witness to the heady optimism of a country on a path to self-determination, the toppling of a dictator, the difficult transition toward democracy, the courageous challenge to the ruling military who cracks down on the opposition, and the celebration of a cultural shift, where a younger generation inspires a country to “lead themselves.”
Escape is a short film documenting the rescue and rehabilitation of Maasai girls who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriage, two practices that go hand-in-hand in Kenya. Female circumcision and child marriage continue to take root in poverty-stricken communities that consider women as lucrative property to be “sold” to the highest bidder. The film depicts the lives of several young women and the various paths that some are forced to make. Naanyu Sekut, approximately thirteen years old, marries a man more than twenty years her senior. Her cousin, Seleyian Sekut, ten, is rescued from her husband. Others like Carolyn, Jennifer, Mary, Salula and Teresia were rescued by the Tasaru Safehouse for Girls, where they are provided shelter, security and free primary and secondary education. We are introduced to their stories not only about physical pain from undergoing “the cut,” but also the emotional turmoil following their union with older men and their subsequent rescue from a lifetime of subservience. The movie explores the tenacity of some village elders bent on continuing a deeply rooted practice and the struggle by a growing segment of the community to redefine “tradition” despite the consequences.
GOING UP THE STAIRS
Warm, revealing and often surprisingly funny portrait of an unlikely artist shows us that true talent will always refuse to be stifled, and you do not need an education to channel your emotions into art. Akram is an illiterate, fifty-year-old Iranian woman who became a painter unexpectedly when her young grandson asked her to work on a drawing. That simple moment tapped into an explosion of powerful, primitive and colorful paintings, which she hid from disapproving eyes. When invited to exhibit in Paris, she is at the mercy of her conservative husband: Will he let her go showcase her raw talent or give in to his sense of tradition and keep her home?
From the same team that made the multi-award-winning Dancing Boys of Afghanistan comes a new film exposing the dreadful abuse of young Afghan girls by drugs traffickers closely allied to the Taliban. Reporter Najibullah Quraishi journeys deep into the Afghan countryside to reveal the deadly bargain that local farmers are being forced to make in order to save their own lives. The Afghan government has embarked on a massive eradication program to destroy poppy fields in the most popular growing areas. But this program has had a drastic collateral effect on farm families, who have borrowed money from traffickers to grow their crops. Once destroyed, they cannot pay these loans back. The only thing of value they now possess is their children and, in particular, their daughters. When the traffickers arrive to demand payment the farmers are told: “Give us your daughters, or we will kill you.” Girls as young as six, are sold into sex-slavery to save their fathers. Opium Brides follows the stories of five families on the run from traffickers. By the end, just two girls remain free. As one girl tells us: “If they take me, I'll have to kill myself. Death is better than sorrow and sadness.”
Known by many as Palestine's white petroleum, natural stone is Palestine's most highly demanded raw material. However, the Palestinian stone industry is largely held hostage to serving Israeli construction needs, including the construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Inside villages, cities and refugee camps, natural stone is unearthed at maddening unsustainable rates, leaving behind a wreck of environmental, social and health problems. Any complaints of ordinary Palestinians face persecution by the Israeli occupation, fall on the deaf ears of international organizations, or are merely ignored by Palestinian officials, who are unable to change the course this industry has taken.