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February 22, 2005

Event Contact: Kassi Tallent, Human Rights Law Society, ktallent@mail.utexas.edu.
Press Contact: Jodi Bart, UT Law Communications, (512) 471-7330.

Human Rights Law Society Hosts International Film Festival, Feb. 28 - March 3

Austin Premiere of Four Award-Winning Human Rights Films

WHAT: Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
WHERE: The University of Texas School of Law, Room 3.142 (directions to Law School and building maps: http://www.utexas.edu/law/about/maps/)
WHEN: Monday, Feb. 28 - Thursday, March 3; All screenings begin at 6:30 p.m.
ADMISSION: Admission is by a suggested donation of $5 per movie or the purchase of a $15 pass good for all four movies. Donations will be accepted at the door.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Human Rights Law Society at UT Law, with generous support from the Student Bar Association, is proud to host the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival from Feb. 28 to March 3. All screenings will take place at 6:30 p.m. in room 3.142 at the Law School, and are open to the public. The Festival is the Human Rights Law Society’s major fundraiser and event for the spring semester.

Human Rights Watch's International Film Festival has become a leading venue for distinguished fiction, documentary and animated films and videos with a distinctive human rights theme. Since its inception, the Festival has embodied the power of film to make a difference. Courageous and committed filmmakers produce impressive documentary and feature films, which stimulate passionate conversations about human rights and inspire new generations of human rights activists. Through the universal language of film, viewers connect the experience of survivors and activists with their own experiences — a critical step in influencing public opinion and international policy.

The four award-winning films: Persons of Interest, Repatriation, What the Eye Doesn’t See, and Deadline help to put a human face on threats to individual freedom and dignity, and celebrate the power of the human spirit and intellect to prevail. Each movie seeks to empower viewers with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a very real difference. These films premiered during the Human Rights Watch International Film Festivals in London and New York but will be seen in Austin for the first time.

Human Rights Watch International Film Festival Schedule:

Monday, Feb. 28: Persons of Interest
Professor Robert Jensen, University of Texas School of Journalism, will facilitate a Q&A session after the film.

After the September 11th terrorist attacks, more than 5000 people, mainly non-U.S. nationals of South Asian or Middle Eastern origin, were taken into custody by the U.S. Justice Department and held indefinitely on grounds of national security. Muslim immigrants were subject to arbitrary arrest, secret detention, solitary confinement, and deportation. Many were denied access to legal representation and communication with their families. During a period when the State Department has made every effort to depersonalize these detentions, refusing to reveal the names or even the number of immigrants detained, the voices of those affected — their testimonials and experiences — become our only window into the human costs of post September 11th immigration policies. Following an unconventional format, Persons of Interest presents a series of encounters between former detainees and directors Maclean and Perse in an empty room which serves both visually and symbolically as an interrogation room, home, and prison cell. Through interviews, family photographs, and letters from prison, the directors have fashioned a compelling and poignant film, allowing those affected a chance to tell their own stories.

Tuesday, March 1: Repatriation

In the spring of 1992, documentary filmmaker Dong-won Kim met Cho Chang-son and Kim Seak-hyoung, two North Koreans arrested by South Korean authorities years before. Convicted of spying for the North, they were incarcerated and spent thirty years as political prisoners. These men, and many others like them, underwent conversion schemes in prison that involved torture: those who renounced their communist beliefs were released from prison early. The others, known as "the unconverted," served their full terms. None could return home to the North, however, until the turn of this century, when tensions between North and South eased significantly. Director Dong-won Kim followed these men for ten years, documenting how they survived — both physically and psychologically — the dehumanizing time spent in prison, and their quest, once released, to finally go home. Winner of the Freedom of Expression Award, Sundance Film Festival 2004

Wednesday, March 2: What the Eye Doesn't See

Acclaimed filmmaker Francisco J. Lombardi delivers his most ambitious project to date with the political psychodrama What the Eye Doesn't See (Ojos Que No Ven). Set in the final days of Alberto Fujimori's presidency in Peru, the film explores the corruption plaguing many Latin American governments as seen through the eyes of everyday people. What the Eye Doesn't See focuses on the scandal caused by the release of the infamous "Vladi videos" — hidden camera tapes of presidential advisor Vladimiro Montesinos blackmailing high-level government officials — which eventually led to the end of Fujimori's presidency. But rather than recreate true stories, Lombardi uses a colorful array of fictional characters to show the ramifications of dishonest government on individual lives. Six interweaving stories give us a picture of Peru's social reality as its citizens attempt to cope during a critical juncture in their history.

Thursday, March 3: Deadline (Co-sponsored with the Criminal Law Society)

On the eve of his departure from office, George Ryan — longtime conservative Republican, supporter of the death penalty, and governor of Illinois — surprised the nation by commuting the sentences of all 167 prisoners on Death Row. Directors Katy Chevigny and Kirsten Johnson bring us directly into the debate and the legal process that is set into motion when a group of Northwestern University journalism students uncover evidence that many people on Illinois' Death Row are innocent, undermining the credibility of the state's entire capital justice system. In the wake of this evidence, Ryan orders special clemency hearings for every prisoner awaiting execution. Within these courtrooms is human drama in its most distilled form. Using unique access to the hearings, prisoners on Death Row, and Governor Ryan, Deadline delivers a measured sense of justice for all its subjects and contributes reason and passion to the ongoing debate about whether nations should employ the ultimate punishment and how justly it is administered.

Related Links:
Human Rights Watch International Traveling Film Festival: http://hrw.org/iff/2004/traveling/
Human Rights Law Society: http://www.utexas.edu/law/orgs/hrls/