ACT Human Rights Film Festival premieres, discusses corruption

Colorado+State+chair+of+the+department+of+communication+studies+Greg+Dickinson+addresses+the+crowd+at+the+ACT+film+festival+March+31%2C+2022.

Collegian | Gregory James

Colorado State chair of the department of communication studies Greg Dickinson addresses the crowd at the ACT film festival March 31, 2022. The festival shows films that highlight human rights attrocities from around the world and includes panels of professors and professionals involved in these backgrounds through their lived experience or area of research.

Kadyn Thorpe, Arts and Culture Reporter

After two years, the ACT Human Rights Film Festival returned in person and ready to make up for lost time. From March 31 to April 3, the ACT Human Rights Film Festival held 12 human rights-related film screenings at the Lory Student Center and The Lyric. 

The ACT Human Rights Film Festival is hosted annually every April in Fort Collins. Due to the pandemic, they have not had the opportunity to have recent in-person showings until this year, and they came back excited to be able to enjoy these films together rather than alone through a screen. 

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“Thank you to you for coming; ACT only works if you’re here,” said Greg Dickinson, Colorado State University professor and ACT Human Rights Film Festival fundraiser. “It’s coming together to see the films and having the conversation — that’s what makes this a film festival.” 

March 31 marked the start of the 2022 ACT Human Rights Film Festival with a welcoming reception and a screening of “The Caviar Connection: How to Buy Democracy.” The reception started at 5:30 p.m., equipped with food and ACT’s very own signature brew: Screening Session IPA from Odell Brewing Co. For everyone’s musical pleasure, Colorado State University student ­­­Mason Siders was there to play the piano and create a soothing atmosphere for everyone around. 

The logo for the ACT film festival on a check-in table March 31, 2022.
The logo for the ACT film festival on a check-in table March 31, 2022. The (A)waken, (C)onnect, and (T)ransform Human rights film festival is an annual festival held at Colorado State University to highlight documentary films that bring human rights violations to the forefront by casting a light on stories that are often forgotten or left out of the limelight. The festival returned to an in-person format this year with films beings shown that highlight human rights issues around the world. (Collegian | Gregory James)

After the reception, the theater opened, and people were let in to find their seats. As the crowd took their seats, they were handed popcorn to enjoy during the film. Dickinson took to the stage and started to introduce the rest of the night’s festivities.  

Dickinson introduced what the ACT Human Rights Film Festival is: a film festival that “screens artistically excellent films from around the world and fosters conversations about social justice and human rights,” according to its website. After Dickinson introduced the ACT Human Rights Film Festival, CSU President Joyce McConnell made an appearance. 

“Engaging people across communities, cultures and ideas to plant seeds of understanding, of empathy, of what it means to be human — the ACT human right festival does exactly this,” McConnell said.

The ACT Human Rights Film Festival is not only something that provides viewers with films focusing on the complex subject of human rights, it also provides them with tools and resources to make sure that everyone everywhere has access to their fundamental rights.

“The Caviar Connection: How to Buy Democracy” showed just what McConnell spoke on: understanding what it means to be human. Focusing on the political injustice, corruption and governmental bribery in Azerbaijan, the film shows how these things impact the citizens of these countries. 

The film is split up into two parts. Part one follows Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist in Azerbaijan investigating the corruption inside the government and the ruling family as she and others become political prisoners in their own country for their outspoken opposition to the government.

A panel of professors in fields relating to human rights discuss the film "The Caviar Connection: How to buy democracy" and answer questions from assistant professor of Political Science at Colorado State University Dominik Stecula March 31, 2022.
A panel of professors in fields relating to human rights discuss the film “The Caviar Connection: How to buy democracy” and answer questions from assistant professor of Political Science at Colorado State University Dominik Stecula March 31, 2022. The panel was the first of several panels that will proceed films shown at the ACT film festival going on from March 31-April 3 in person, and April 4-10 online. (Collegian | Gregory James)

The second part focuses on “caviar diplomacy,” a system of bribery used to downplay the human rights issues in a country. Human rights issues in Azerbaijan have led to multiple investigations into numerous European Union member states, with many diplomats voting to deny the report that revealed the presence of political prisoners in Azerbaijan due to caviar diplomacy. 

Following the film, there was a panel of experts on post-Soviet Union autocracy, diplomacy and corruption. The three panelists were Peter Harris from the political science department at CSU, Christoph Stefes, a professor of political science at the University of Colorado Denver and Julia Khrebtan-Hörhager from the communications studies department at CSU. Panelists spoke about the film and focused on its relevance to the present Ukraine and Russia situation. 

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The opening night to the ACT Human Rights Festival started off with a relevant and eye-opening film on the issue of corruption. Those interested in seeing “The Caviar Connection” or any of the films shown during the in-person showings can check out the online showings from April 4-10 on the ACT Human Rights Film Festival website. To stream virtually, one film costs $8 if you don’t buy a pass — or $4 for Colorado State University students with a discount code. 

If you have the opportunity to view any of the films that ACT introduced and want to take action, the ACT Human Right Film Festival website provides you with everything you need. Simply select the movie that resonated with you, and explore the many ways you can take action to help make sure people all around the world have equal human rights. 

Reach Kadyn Thorpe at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @thorpekadyn.