‘¡Las Sandinistas!’ and ‘Western Collections’ balance humor, gravity while delivering advocation of equality

Julia Trowbridge

The Lyric Cinema’s theater was almost completely packed for the 11 a.m. showing of the short film “Western Collections,” as well as the documentary “¡Las Sandinistas!” for the fourth annual ACT Human Rights Film Festival.

The annual festival takes place between April 5 to 13, showcasing multiple documentaries. This is the first year the festival is presenting short documentaries.

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Western Collections

Gassaway answers a question
Jude Gassaway, a retired geologist and subject of the short film “Western Collections,” answers a question during the Q&A after the film. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

“Western Collections” is a short film focused on retired geologist, Jude Gassaway from Edgewater, Colorado.

The film highlights Gassaway’s collection of various items she’s picked up over the years, including barb wire and manhole covers.

Gassaway has levity and humor about the items she’s attained, showing her appreciation of the value in the materials others see as trash.

The film transitions to a deeper message about Gassaway coming out as a lesbian. Her collection of books about homosexuality give mixed messages, like some of the messages even compared lesbians to prostitutes. Gassaway said reading about homosexuality allowed her to learn about her identity.

“As I got to know Jude, her personal story came out more and more, and I was like, ‘Let’s make a documentary about that,’” Director Aaron Burns said.

Throughout the 10-minute film, the audience was laughing at every quick-witted joke Gassaway made, and by the end of it they were appreciating her for who she was.

¡Las Sandinistas!

“¡Las Sandinistas!” focuses on the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua and its takedown of the Somoza dictatorship.

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The film mainly touches on the female contribution to the revolution, which is being erased in Nicaraguan history.

The Sandinistas are a group created to overthrow President Somoza, with the idea that the only way to fight a repressive regime was through violence. Members of the organization went underground, trained with weapons and performed multiple attacks on the government, including seizing Somoza’s palace in 1978.

With the idea of living through memories, the story was centralized around the interviews with the women, with older footage from the revolution acting as more supplemental information to the stories they were re-living.

The film opened and closed with the idea of memory: looking at the experience of memory and the experience of memory erasure.

The film also touches on the idea that history is documented exclusively from the winner’s perspective. In this case, the winners were not just the Sandinistas, but the men as well.

With the idea of living through memories, the story was centralized around the interviews with the women, with older footage from the revolution acting as more supplemental information to the stories they were re-living.

The documentary also utilized news footage to enforce that this revolution was recognized as an influential force in the country.

As the revolution went on, the Sandinistas gained control of Nicaragua and implemented mass improvements in health and culture. When Sandinista member Daniel Ortega became president, The United States under President Ronald Reagan began to fund anti-Sandinista rebels.

Encore screenings:
Other films at the ACT Film Festival can be found here.

The women in the film illustrate that President Ortega, currently serving a second term as president, has essentially turned into Somoza through his abuse of power and disrespect towards women. Even his own step-daughter has accused him of sexual abuse.

Although the end of the story closes with the opening quote on memory, the film shows the beginnings of a new revolution.

Julia Trowbridge can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on twitter @chapin_jules.