A CLAIHR approach to filmmaking

Annual film festival strives to raise awareness about human rights issues

Ryan won the Oscar in 2004 for best animated short and will be screened on Sat., Feb. 11.
Ryan won the Oscar in 2004 for best animated short and will be screened on Sat., Feb. 11.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of aec.at

Film Festival Preview: CLAIHR Film Festival, Feb. 9-11 @ Dunning Auditorium

On September 6, 1995, First Nations protester Dudley George was shot and killed by police, while protesting over land at Ipperwash Provincial Park, west of London, Ont. His story, as well as the story of this disputed territory, is told in the film One Dead Indian, directed by Gemini-award winner Tim Southam. The film questions the state of human rights in Canada, which is an issue that Canadian Lawyers Association for International Human Rights (CLAIHR) strives to raise awareness about.

“The best thing that we can do is try to get people in Canada to be aware of issues that are out there, and then try to act on it,” said Matt Morden, one of the organizers of the festival.

“[CLAIHR tries] to help with human rights reform in law. But the biggest thing is for people to realize that human rights at home and abroad are really connected, and the way that you treat people in Canada affects how other people in the world see that they should treat each other.”

One Dead Indian will be screened this weekend as part of the International Human Rights Film Festival, put on by the Queen’s chapter of CLAIHR, along with several other films that pertain to human rights.

In addition to the films, there will be speakers after each screening to provide insight on the topics presented.

“The whole idea is that we get people to come and watch the films, and the reason we have speakers is so they learn about what they can do afterwards,” Morden said in an interview with the Journal.

This year, Min-Sook Lee will be speaking after the screening of her film Hogtown, which examines the role of the police force in Toronto.

“I’m really excited about Hogtown,” Morden said. “I think it’s really topical. With gun violence on the rise, I think this will be a very interesting film to watch.”

Last year the festival screened Lee’s film El Contracto. She has come back to Kingston this year not only to support her newest film, but also in support of the issues raised in her documentaries.

“We’ve started to have relationships with some of the directors,” Morden said. “If we can mutually help each other out, I think it’s good for both [parties].” The festival starts with a screening of Vendetta Song on Feb. 9 at 9 p.m. Vendetta Song describes Eylem Kaftan’s search for the truth behind her aunt’s death in Turkey.

However, One Dead Indian is expected to draw the largest audience.

“This year, between One Dead Indian and Tsepong: A Clinic Called Hope, I think those are both going to be fairly big draws,” Morden said. “One Dead Indian in particular, because it’s in the news right now. I think it’s an important documentary.”

One Dead Indian is based on the book of the same name by Peter Edwards, who will speak after the screening. Edwards will also be available for a book signing before and after the film.

“I think that there’s a real shift away from focusing on human rights, and human rights development, and more towards giving up those rights for security,” said Morden. “I think that’s why it’s important that we have this sort of festival, and to put the focus on developing human rights here and making sure we protect them so that we can work abroad as well.”

Tsepong: A Clinic Called Hope deals with issues of human rights overseas. It tracks Canadian health care workers who set up a clinic in Lesotho, a small country in southern Africa with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infected adults. The film explores the challenges of setting up the country’s first AIDS clinic and distributing drugs to an enormous amount of people. “What these films try to address is problems that come out of poverty, such as access to medication for people in Lesotho, and the way that we treat the less fortunate members of society,” said Morden.

“You’ll see in Ryan, which is about Ryan Larkin the animator—someone who you would think would be held in esteem in Canada, but now is on the street—and you look at the way that he’s treated, and it says something about how we treat everyone.” Larkin worked as an animator in Canada in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and is now a panhandler living in Montreal. Filmmaker Chris Landreth interviewed Larkin about his unfortunate descent from fame. The interviews make up the film Ryan, which won Landreth the Oscar in 2004 for best animated short.

Ryan will be screened at 7 p.m. on Feb. 11, and will be followed by Alter Egos, which examines the interaction between Landreth and Larkin during the interviews.

“It really has to do with the individual, and what’s happened to this individual within the Canadian context and how he’s gotten to where he is and how he was treated along the way, and what sorts of issues he’s facing,” Morden said.

The festival runs from Feb. 9 to 11, with all screenings and speakers taking place in Dunning Auditorium. There is free admission to all the screenings, with donations going to charity.

“We’re hoping to get as many people out as we can,” Morden said. “We had over 1,000 people last year, and it’s been growing every year. We just want to get the word out.”

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