United Nations Association Film Festival turns 17.

The 17th UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival), will be held from October 16-26, in Palo Alto, Stanford University San Francisco. This year the theme for the festival is "BRIDGING THE GAP", and to that aim, high quality films will be screened
on human rights, environmental themes, population, migration, women’s issues, refugees, homelessness, racism, health, universal education, and war and peace, all in all 70 films from all over the world.
These are some of the outstanding film this year, that explore cultural writers, celebrities, scorned leaders and the manipulation of images created by media that drives public opinion.

“Regarding Susan Sontag”, a film about the late intellectual and cultural critic will be screened at Stanford University on Oct 18. The film made by Nancy Kates skillfully weaves archival footage with testimony of the people who remember her life. Actress Patricia Clarkson reads Sontag’s own words from her writing. Sontag was an open critic of war and proclaimed that the terrorist actions of 9/11 were a proclamation against the US as a superpower, a viewpoint that brought strong criticism. She held her own with her contemporaries and was outspoken on a number of issues. She refused to be called a woman writer -  just a writer. This film fits well with the film festival’s theme of Bridging the Gap.

“Brave Miss World” by Cecilia Peck chronicles the experiences of former Miss Israel, Linor Abargil who was kidnapped, assaulted and raped in Milan, Italy six weeks prior to the Miss World competition. She was only 18 at the time, and later decided to come out in the open and speak about her experience. She traveled to parts of the US where she openly addressed groups of primarily women and encouraged them to send to her their survivor experiences.  The film screens Oct 20 at Stanford University.

“In the Wake of Stalin” is a French Russian coproduction by Thomas Johnson. 60 years after the death of the dictator and 20 million people under his watch, comes the disturbing news that his legacy is being positively revived and for some as a person who was a hero of the Soviet Union. To counteract this propaganda human rights activists in Russia tell the truth about his deadly regime, and are interviewed in this film. The documentary screens Oct 19 at Stanford.

“Valentino’s Ghost” by Michael Singh in collaboration with  the  Center for Asian Americans takes its title from the image of Rudolph Valentino in “Son of the Sheik” in 1921 , where the famous actor is dressed as an Arab. From this Singh explores the U.S. media portrayal of Arabs and Muslims and its relationship with the American foreign policy agenda in the Middle East. The filmmakers speak with a panel of experts and try to piece together how media images originally allowed Americans to project their fantasies on the Middle East and later were induced to loathe Arabs, Muslims and Islam. Although there was a romantic attraction to the Middle East for adventure and excitement with films starring Valentino to Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, the conquest of the Middle East by the British changed this image. When these countries tried to regain their land they were called ruthless or barbaric savages.  "Valentino’s Ghost" is an exceptional documentary that turns the tables on Middle Eastern history perpetuated by the media and its representation of this area of the world. The documentary takes up the Palestinians who shot and killed Israeli  athletes in 1972 at the Olympics in Berlin,  a turning point for the representation of Arabs.  This was followed by the representation of Islam as the religion of disobedient Muslims. The film screens Oct 25 in Palo Alto.

Other exceptional films this year tackle subjects such as city slums, global warming, black photographers, mental illness, revolution, spirituality, and civil disobedience .

© 2014 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 10/15/2014
Movie Magazine International