ACT Film Festival Shorts show different lenses of human rights

Maddie Wright

As the fourth annual ACT Film Festival came to a close, the last day opened with a block of short films.

Five films played from different parts of the world, the shortest being 12 minutes and the longest being 28 minutes. All of them made their Colorado debut, one of them making its debut in North America. Keeping with the themes and purpose of the film festival, the shorts encouraged discussion and action from viewers as they learn about different perspectives of human rights around the world.


After the showing, representatives from various organizations like Partners for Peace, Wall of Flowers and the American Civil Liberties Union made presentations about working towards peace and focusing on human rights.

These were not the only short films shown over the course of the festival. Three others showed in conjunction with films that complimented the themes better.


Edgecombe County in North Carolina sparked an idea in filmmaker Crystal Kayiza. This 15-minute film showed a deeper account of an African American community prospering through the support of each other.

The film is told in three parts, the first portion discussing “house” and what it represents. The second film looks at “homestead.” It tells the story of how a woman’s home has been in her family for generations, revealing slavery was not really that long ago. It closes with “community,” talking about how community can help the wellbeing of its citizens.

This production served as a profound look at African American communities compared to the journalistic stories of racialized poverty often showed.

“Los Comandos”

“Los Comandos” comes from the minds of Josh Bennett and Juliana Schatz Preston in cooperation with the United States and El Salvador. It shares the story of one of many first responder teams in El Salvador, showing the audience the group of teenagers and young adults who exhibit everyday heroism.

It delves into a different type of ageism in Salvadoran teenagers and how they are terrorized by both gangs and the police. It serves as a form of hope and raw beauty in putting one’s life on the line to save someone else’s. It also looks at how losing someone in your organization can impact the rest of the group morale but how through a purpose and hope, good can keep happening.

“Scenes from a Dry City”


In 12 minutes, filmmakers François Verster and Simon Wood tell the story of Cape Town, South Africa’s water regulations. Some of the shots included are arrests at illegal car washes and people golfing in water.

By explaining the government’s policies, the film talks of the racism and classism that exist within them. For example, the regional hotels can use water without a problem, but citizens can’t have water in their own homes.

“Our Song to War”

This Belgium short film examines Colombia’s grim 2002 Bojayá Massacre. The film uses beautifully raw shots of the forest to create an attitude and intrigue from the get-go. It tells the story and history of the massacre through the perspectives of the children who lost family members in the tragedy. It explores the ideas of familial loss and healing as a community by using the voices of these children talking about the loss of their family members.

“Trapped in the City of a Thousand Mountains”

To end the shorts block, this short film discusses the “morally suspect” behavior of the underground subculture in Chongqing, China. Filmmaker David Verbeek shows the censorship laws in China that include the banning of hip hop and tattoos. The underground club culture in Chongqing gives its residents, especially young tattooed rappers, a chance to express themselves freely. It looks at the idea of hip hop culture as freedom and how China is not truly free because the music is not allowed. The film includes shots of rappers rapping in their studio, music videos being filmed and generally young people exploring this as a part of their identity.

Maddie Wright can be reached at or on Twitter @maddierwright.