Human rights showcase in film festival

Graduate students, undergraduate students and a small number of faculty members have organized an international human rights documentary film festival set to play at IU Cinema this weekend.

“It’s the only human rights documentary film festival in Indiana and one of the very few in the world that has a team made up of only faculty and graduate students,” said Alexandra Cotofana, director of the In Light Human Rights Film Festival.

She said they are very proud of the festival’s appearance at IU and hopes to influence further generations by making this an annual event.

Alexander Zorn is a junior and the man behind the festival’s Twitter account. Zorn got involved with the festival by volunteering for it after receiving a call-out email, which included a request for students interested in volunteering with the media aspects of the event.

As a student hoping to pursue film studies in graduate school, Zorn said he felt it was a great opportunity to get involved. He said he got involved for the student media experience but has become excited for the festival through his volunteering so far.

“There are some really, really cool films,” he said.

He said he is interested in seeing films that involve human rights and the GLBT community on an international scale.

Both Cotofana and Zorn said they were excited for the Q&A sessions they will be having with the directors and actors of the documentaries.

“The fact that we’re bringing people from other countries to talk about their films is really cool,” Zorn said. “And I think it will open a lot of people’s eyes.”

He said the biggest struggle for most American filmmakers is usually money, but the filmmakers that will be highlighted in the festival had to overcome barriers of gender and many social issues that were not financial. This is a difference he said he feels will have a lasting effect on the students who attend the festival.

Cotofana said this festival is an important event that will put IU on the map in terms of international film festivals. She also said it is not emphasized enough that IU has a lot of scholars who work with both human rights and film.

She said this event could be a huge topic in research among scholars. Students should be encouraged to push their work outside of the realm of scholars and show research on human rights to larger audiences elsewhere in the world, she said.

The festival will be showcasing documentaries, and those involved will have the opportunity to attend a graduate film workshop today from 9 a.m. to noon before the first film at 3 p.m.

Friday and Saturday, there will be round-table discussions on topics of human rights and documentary film. They will include guest appearances as well as the Q&A sessions. After the third film of each day, there will be a social event for attendees.

An awards ceremony was recently added to the event. A jury made up of IU faculty and graduate students will present three awards at the end of each night during the festival.

Prizes given out by the jury will include the grand jury prize, the audience prize and the jury prize for activism.

Zorn said the festival is “the real deal” in terms of student film festivals, and it has surprised him how big the event already is for it being the first year.

The first film will start at 3 p.m. this afternoon at the IU Cinema and continue through Saturday night. A detailed itinerary for the festival can be found on the In Light Film Festival event page on Facebook.

“There’s no other such event in March that could compete with what we’re doing,” Cotofana said.

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