ACT Film Festival aims to create human rights dialogue in Fort Collins

Megan Fischer

With the countless human rights problems of the world, one Colorado State University professor has taken the task of opening up human rights and social justice dialogue at CSU with a new approach — the first week-long film festival focused on human rights at CSU. 

The first ACT Human Rights Film Festival will be taking place on CSU’s campus, at the Lyric Cinema Café at 300 E. Mountain Ave. in Fort Collins and at Harmony Library April 15-22.

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“Colorado State and the state of Colorado have yet to showcase some of the films that I feel are the most important in the world today,” said Scott Diffrient, CSU communication studies associate professor. 

Diffrient planned the event and chose the films that will be shown through the week. The films address different human rights issues worldwide, including views on Muslims in an American world, gay rights and international poverty, among others. 

“The film festival can serve an educational role,” Diffrient said. “I think that reflects on our diverse population in Fort Collins as well.”

Festival publicist Tammy Brislin said the purpose of the festival is to bring human rights issues awareness to campus.

“I think it was important for him to bring something about human rights to campus,” Brislin said. “It’s important for him to get the students, faculty and staff in to see the films.”

According to Brislin, each film being shown has a community non-profit associated with it, and in addition, eight directors will intro their films and be available for Q&A afterward, two of whom are CSU alumni.

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“American Arab,” a film describing the life and story of Arab-American Usama Alshaibi will be one of 18 films to play at the ACT Film Festival in Fort Collins, Colorado. Alshaibi is a communications studies instructor at CSU and the director of the film. (Photo courtesy of Alshaibi.)

Usama Alshaibi, a communications studies instructor at CSU, will be talking about his film, “American Arab,” after its showing. Alshaibi said the purpose of his film was to bring awareness to a subject that is highly talked about by bringing his own story to light as an Arab-American who first came to the U.S. at a very young age with his family.

“As I grew up, I would watch things from Hollywood movies, like ‘Back to the Future,’ and I started noticing that whenever they had Arabs on the screen, they were always the bad guys, and the good guys always looked like Michael J. Fox. And I thought, ‘This isn’t right,'” Alshaibi said.

Alshaibi said that one of the main points in his film is how the negative representation of Arab-Americans in the media throughout the years creates the idea that they are not really Americans and makes it easier for the public to “otherize” them. 

“I think the reason why they picked my film is because I think it’s a topic that’s discussed in mainstream media, and oftentimes our communities get in a narrative that isn’t ours or doesn’t resemble us,” Alshaibi said. 

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Alshaibi said the festival was an opportunity for him to tell his story as one of struggling with culture, having been born in Baghdad, Iraq, and living between the U.S. and various places around the Middle East in his early life.

“For me, it’s just an opportunity to really tell an American story,” Alshaibi said. “Arabs have been here since the formation of this country — we are a part of the American fabric.”

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“Chau, Beyond the Lines,” a film concerning a teenager in a care center for children disabled by Agent Orange by director Courtney Marsh. The film was a 2015 Academy Award nominee. (Photo Courtesy of ACT Film Festival publicist Tammy Brislin.)

Courtney Marsh’s Academy Award nominated film “Chau, Beyond the Lines” will be playing at the festival, a film she worked on for eight years before it was finished. It is a film about disability and how those affected by disability are seen as lesser than those unaffected by it. The film surrounds the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war and its harmful effects.

“We can look into the future and say, ‘What can we do?'” Marsh said. “The more people born with these defects, the more infringed their human rights will be.”

Prices for the festival are $5 or $8 for students and $8 or $12 for general public, depending on if receptions will follow the films, particularly on the opening and closing nights. A full list of films and their prices with trailers can be viewed on their website.

Films will be playing on CSU’s main campus in the Lory Student Center Theatre, the Lyric Cinema Café in Fort Collins and the Harmony Library, located at 4616 S. Shields St.

Opening night for the festival is April 15, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Theatre. There are 18 films total that are a part of the festival.

Films playing at the Lory Student Center Theatre

Friday, April 15: “Burden of Peace” – 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 16: “American Arab” – 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 16: “Kings of Nowhere” – 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 17: “Justine” and “Stories of Our Lives” – 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 17: “Not My Life” – 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 20: “No Land’s Song” – 7:30 p.m.

Friday, April 22: “Sunrise” – 4:30 p.m.

Friday, April 22: “Something Better to Come” – 7:30 p.m.

Films playing at the Lyric Cinema Café, 300 E. Mountain Ave.

Monday, April 18: “The Shelter” – 4:30 p.m.

Monday, April 18: “I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced” – 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 19: “Tomorrow We Disappear” – 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 19: “Wind on the Moon” – 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 20: “Pine Ridge” – 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 21: “Chau, Beyond the Lines” and “Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus” – 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 21: “Born This Way” – 7:30 p.m.

Films playing at the Harmony Library

Sunday, April 17: “Planet of Snail” – 2 p.m.

Collegian Reporter Megan Fischer can be reached at news@collegian.com or via Twitter @MegFischer04.