UC Merced began its 14th annual Human Rights Film Festival last Friday, Feb. 7, with Ai Weiwei’s 2017 documentary, The Human Flow.
Organizers will be showing a different film centered on the topic of human rights, every Friday at 7 p.m. for the remainder of February. The film festival is free and open to the general public. The movies are shown inside the Arts & Computational Science (ACS) Auditorium in room 120. The festival is sponsored by UCM Center for the Humanities; School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Arts, UC Merced Arts, and Social Justice Initiatives & Identity Programs.
The festival first began in 2006 with the initiative of Robin DeLugon, associate professor of Anthropology at UC Merced. DeLugon, an activist at heart, believes that we, as humans, need to remain connected with events happening around the globe. Although seemingly distant, she believes, many of the challenges and experiences that others face around the globe are mirrored in our very own backyard.
“Human rights is a very big umbrella,” DeLugon explained. “I do believe everyone deserves the right to live in safety, security, and to have a roof over their head. Everyone deserves a certain quality of life, to be free of persecution, and free from violence. Everyone is entitled to be a part of a nation, not stateless, as refugees are.”
DeLugon continued by emphasizing that refugees are constantly in limbo as they do not have citizenship. The refugee crisis has only escalated in recent years as many countries install refugee restrictions making it harder for those seeking asylum.
The Human Flow dominated the stage on the first Friday of the film festival. The film centers on the current refugee crisis around the world. In the film, millions of men, women, and children are seen fleeing their homelands in search of a better life. The current refugee crisis Weiwei highlights is the biggest displacement the world has seen since World War II. War, famine, persecution, and violence are some of the main influences of migration. The film follows migrant caravans throughout France, Germany, Greece, Afghanistan, Iraq and other neighboring countries. The audience is given insight into the severity of the refugee crisis as most refugees are turned away at the border or left to remain in limbo as governments decide what to do with them.
“Sometimes it is really easy to say that’s their problem … not our problem,” DeLugon reflected. “For me, it has always been about making the connection between our sense of humanity and that of others.”
The film briefly touches the immigration crisis happening south of the United States border, another reminder, DeLugon believes, that world issues directly reflect those happening in our own communities.
After the film concluded, DeLugon led a conversation on the purpose of the film, allowing audience members a chance to speak out about their thoughts and questions on the film.
Over its 14-year run, the festival has shown films centered on human rights and has presented audiences with a wide variety of topics.
“In past years, we have covered violence against women, criminal justice, and migration,” DeLugon said. “Last year, we even had the chance to screen Yehuda Sharims film.”
Sharims is an art professor at the university and a filmmaker who directs films on the refugee crisis.
Gentrification is the next topic the festival will tackle with the screening of The Last Black Man in San Francisco. The film will be shown on Friday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m.
500 Years, a documentary focused on the history and resistance of the people of Guatemala, will be shown on Friday, Feb. 21. The film is told from the perspective of the indigenous Mayans and details the genocide of the Mayan population that happened at the hands of Guatemalan dictator, Efraín Ríos Montt.
The film festivals last movie, Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno, will be shown on Friday, Feb. 28. Before Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, Moreno fought for labor workers’ rights as she raised her 12 children. The film centers around her legacy and the struggles she faced as a migrant worker.
All three films will be shown at the Arts & Computational Science (ACS) Auditorium in Room 120 with free light refreshments and water. Free parking is available for those looking to participate in the film festival. For more information, contact [email protected]