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Award-winning films, directors headline ASU Human Rights Film Festival

Palestinian filmmaker's son looks over at Israeli settlements from above
March 28, 2013

Palestinian villager Emad Burnat bought his first camera to document the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel. But what started off as a home video celebrating new life became a full-length film about the power of non-violent protest and political activism.

Burnat transformed into a filmmaker after Gibreel’s birth, when the Israeli army began to confiscate land from farmers in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Tensions between villagers and the army led to a series of violent events, all captured by Burnat and his cameras.

The resulting “5 Broken Cameras,” an Academy Award-nominated film, co-directed by Burnat and Israeli documentarian Guy Davidi, is one of 10 films being screened during ASU’s third annual Human Rights Festival, hosted at the Tempe campus April 5-7.

The three-day festival seeks to enhance awareness and understanding of a variety of human rights issues across the world. 

The showing of “5 Broken Cameras” is paired with the Official Tribeca Selection, “My Neighbourhood,” in which Israeli activists join their Palestinian neighbors to protest the forced evictions occurring in their community. The film offers a look into the oft-ignored stories of Palestinians and Israelis coming together in the name of justice. Afterwards, Sergey Gordey, producer of “5 Broken Cameras,” will Skype in for a discussion led by peace and justice activist Barbara Taft from Amnesty International, in order to further the audience’s understanding of the conflict, the human rights abuses that have been committed, and the prospects for peace.

“I was inspired to create a human rights film festival, in part, because in an academic environment it is easy to get lost in heady and sometimes terrible facts,” says LaDawn Haglund, Human Rights Film Festival director and associate professor of Justice and Social Inquiry in the School of Social Transformation. “Film, when done well, forces us to bring our hearts to the issues, helping us to empathize and, hopefully, spurring us to act.”

Several other award-winning films will be screened throughout the weekend, covering human rights issues that encompass the local, the global and the transcendently human.

“We Women Warriors” and “Four Stories Of Water” focus on Indigenous rights, in Colombia and within the United States, respectively. “A Fierce Green Fire” – a 2012 Sundance Official Selection – chronicles the environmental movement from its inception to the present, and Academy Award-nominated director of “Berkeley in the Sixties," Mark Kitchell, will be on hand for a live discussion.

A series of three short films will highlight human rights issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The festival will close with the award-winning “Bullied to Silence,” (Boston International Film Festival), and “Two Americans,” documenting Sherriff Joe Arpaio’s arrest of Phoenix grade-schooler Katherine Figueroa’s parents.

Each of the festival’s seven sessions will be followed by a discussion with filmmakers or subject-area experts, allowing for a deeper, more informative experience.

“I hope the audience leaves with a better understanding of the range of human rights problems that exist in the world today, as well as a stronger sense of what others are doing, and what they might do, to resolve them,” continues Haglund. “This is a tiny effort among many to transform society to be more socially just.”

The festival is sponsored by The Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at ASU and the School of Social Transformation, both units of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Center for Law and Global Affairs; Amnesty International, Tempe chapter; Amnesty International, ASU student chapter; and the Global Institute of Sustainability.

All sessions are free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested to aid in ordering refreshments: http://humanrightsfilmfestival

The Friday afternoon sessions will be held in the Schwada Classroom Office Building (SCOB). The Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday sessions will be held in the Great Hall of Armstrong Hall, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

For a complete schedule of films and speakers, links to film trailers, and parking information, see For more information, contatt

Story by Zarina Guerrero, justice studies major, School of Social Transformation