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Staff picks: Most anticipated films from the ACT Human Rights Film Festival

The ACT Human Rights Film Festival will be kicking off April 14 thanks to CSU’s Communication Studies department and professor Scott Diffrient in particular. The festival, which is the only human rights film festival in the state of Colorado, will showcase films surrounding “issues of LGBTQ rights, human trafficking, the fight for democracy, disability rights, homeless and more,” according to the festival’s website.

ACT Human Rights Film Festival will begin April 14. (Photo courtesy of ACT Human Rights Film Festival)



In preparation for the festival The Rocky Mountain Collegian’s movie critiques are weighing in on the films they are most anticipating from the festival.

James Wyatt – The film I’m most excited for is the film “Queen of Ireland,” a documentary that chronicles the life of titular Irish drag queen Pati Bliss. Also known for her birth name as Rory O’Neil, the film is considered an uplifting documentary that was filmed on the front lines in Ireland’s fight for marriage equality during the 2015 referendum which amended the country’s constitution.

O’Neil herself has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS research and a warrior in the fight to combat homophobia in Ireland as many people have called her the country’s answer to RuPaul. However, O’Neil’s rise to the spotlight was after a childhood chalked with setbacks from growing up gay in the rural town of Brollinrobe.

O’Neil’s story has been a major success in the push for more LGBTQ representation in the media and “Queen of Ireland” looks to tell this narrative in a way that is equally humorous and poignant. A look within the drag movement of Ireland is a glimpse few of us get to see in mainstream American culture. To see Universal Pictures distributing this film leaves me with a sense of hope for the future of the movement.

Drag has always been used as a way to protest gender identity and a way for someone to embrace their sexual identity, a movement we often attribute to the United States. While “Queen of Ireland” is still a western perspective on the subject it will be particularly interesting to see the cultural differences in the movement’s rise to more mainstream acceptance.

While the LGBTQ community has enjoyed major successes during more progressive times in society I hope this film can give us more perspective on whether or not mainstream culture will continue to accept this movement in the face of both countries entering more conservative eras of government policy.

“Queen of Ireland” will play at 7:30 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Theatre on April 21 following a reception in the Ballroom featuring a Q&A with director Conor Horgan and subject Rory O’Neil.

Sam Perrine – Browsing the list of films by the ACT Human Rights Film Festival, I found myself looking for films that presented an angle and a perspective that I had never seen before. Luckily for me there are many such films in this year’s lineup. One film caught my interest immediately.

“Transit Havana” is a documentary and winner of the “Best Human Rights Film” award at the Verzio Film Festival in Budapest. From director Daniel Amba, the film centers around three Cuban Individuals who are awaiting sexual reassignment surgery provided by the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and a group of Belgian and Dutch doctors. The program is led by Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of current Cuban president Raul Castro. The program is part of Mariela’s pledge to support transgender individuals through government health care.


The film explores some of the history of the LGBTQ+ movement in Cuba as well as the clash of societal values, both old and new, something which should be familiar to viewers around the world.

The film focuses on its main characters who are all waiting for surgery, but the trailer suggests that the film will take time to explore a social revolution in Cuba in regards to its LGBTQ+ population. Through these individuals the film will explore a long struggle in Cuba for the end of oppression based on sexual orientation or identity.

The island nation has remained somewhat of an enigma, even an enemy to many in the United States and elsewhere. With the re-opening of friendly relations initiated by President Barack Obama relatively recently, and with films such as “Transit Havana,” a better understanding of Cuba, its culture and its people can hopefully be reached.

“Transit Havana” will be screened at 7 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Theatre on April 20 with a Q&A with one of the film’s subjects Malu Cano.

Nate Day – The ACT Human Rights Film Festival is set to have some amazing films telling some amazing tales, but the film I am most looking forward to is “Sing Your Song.”

The documentary recounts the story of Harry Belafonte, a singer and activist whom most viewers will know for his hit “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).” Belafonte was not only known for his music but also for his intense political activism during the Civil Rights Movement.

Belafonte’s music career spans several genres, making him an interesting enough character as it is. However, what really seals the deal is just how involved Belafonte was within the Civil Rights Movement and the way in which he used his fame and his art to promote ideas of inclusivity and tolerance, both in the United States and beyond.

The film has already won several awards from other film festivals. Appearances from massive names like Coretta Scott King and Whoopi Goldberg speak to just how great it will be as well as how great Belafonte is. Belafonte himself is quite the award winner as well, having bagged six Grammys, an Emmy and a humanitarian award from the Academy of Motion Pictures.

The film is sure to tell a great story about a great man and will be made that much better by the appearance of Belafonte himself for a Q&A after the film “I am Not Your Negro” airing just after “Sing Your Song.”

“Sing Your Song” will be screened at 4:30 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Theatre on Friday, April 21 and Belafonte’s Q&A will follow the film “I am Not Your Negro,” screening later that day at 7:30 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Theatre. 

Collegian movie critics can be reached at

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