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ACT Film Festival draws more than 1,000, first of its kind in Colorado

Sixteen films involving human rights played on CSU’s campus, at the Lyric Cinema Café and at the Harmony Library from April 15-22, 2016 as a part of the first ACT Human Rights Film Festival in Fort Collins.

A group of people wait for the film "No Land's Song" to start as a part of the ACT Human Rights Film Festival, the first of its kind in Colorado. (Photo by: Megan Fischer)
A group of people wait for the film “No Land’s Song” to start as a part of the ACT Human Rights Film Festival, the first of its kind in Colorado. (Photo by Megan Fischer.)

The film festival was organized by CSU communication studies associate professor Scott Diffrient, who attended 14 international film festivals over the past year and wanted to bring one about human rights to Fort Collins. Over 1,000 seats were filled throughout the eight-day festival, according to festival director of operations Kristy Kling.

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

A group of people filled the Lory Student Center Theatre Wednesday, April 20, 2016, to see “No Land’s Song,” a film about the Iranian government’s restrictions on citizens’ form of expression.

The film documents Sara Najafi’s nearly three-year process of preparing for an unprecedented concert, as in Iran women are not allowed to sing solo, according to the film. She and the other musicians were forced to leap through several bureaucratic hoops in the face of gendered inequalities and discrimination. Many other films in the festival were on the subject of instigating change.

Film director Ayat Najafi and film subject Sara Najafi were present at the film Wednesday. Sara Najafi spoke to a CSU choir class earlier that day.

Ryan Olsen, assistant professor of music education and moderator for the talk with the director and film subject Wednesday, was present when Sara Najafi came to speak to some of the choir students at CSU.

“I started by saying, ‘Imagine if you’re a voice major and you’re being trained to sing, and then you can’t in your own home,'” Olsen said. “I think some of the students didn’t realize just how different our society is and some of the things we take for granted.”

Mallory Connors, a sophomore studying music therapy, bought six tickets for different films throughout the week, and had planned on seeing “No Land’s Song,” but said she was more excited to see it after Sara Najafi spoke to her choir class.

“It’s (the festival) opened my eyes to so many issues. I think narrative storytelling is such a good way to connect,” Connors said.

From left: assistant professor of music education, Ryan Olsen moderates a Q&A with Ayat Sara Najafi, director and film subject of "No Land's Song," a film about the strife to be able to sing as a female soloist in Iran. (Photo by: Megan Fischer)
From left: assistant professor of music education Ryan Olsen moderates a Q&A with Ayat and Sara Najafi, director and film subject of “No Land’s Song,” a film about the strife of singing as a female soloist in Iran. (Photo by Megan Fischer.)

Continuing with the theme of instigating change for the festival, through human rights, especially in Ayat and Sara Najafi’s case, was to stand against what they thought was wrong and make the public aware if it.

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“If there was any fear, we would not have been able to do this project,” Sara Najafi said. “We had to be very strong.”

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

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