Amnesty International Film Festival starts Thursday

Children of War. Courtesy of

 The 16th Amnesty International Film Festival is here from November 17-20 to showcase  powerful films and raise awareness on human rights and to inspire audiences to take action on the different global issues. This year the AIFF will be held at the SFU Harbour Centre in Vancouver.

Over 20 films will take audiences to India, Guatemala Burma, China, U.S.A, Tanzania, , Germany , Australia, Lebanon among others --mostly from independent filmmakers -- that deal with topics such as indigenous rights, right to freedom of expression, women’s rights as well to denounce xenophobia, child exploitation and other ills that afflict the world today. 

The four-day festival will feature special guests, with some directors connecting via Skype to talk about their film. On Sunday, a group of NGOs will take part in a social action fair.

The opening film is Cultures of Resistance (U.S.A.) directed by Iara Lee and the closing film is The Pipe, directed by Risteard O Domhall from Ireland.

Festival highlights:

Screenshot from Blood in the Mobile. Sourced from YouTube.

Blood in the Mobile directed by Frank Piasecki Poulsen (Germany, Denmark)

Five million people have died and 300, 000 women have been raped in the last 15 years as a consequence of the war in Congo. There has been reported links between the war and trading Congo’s minerals which are used to make mobile phones.

Danish fillmmaker Frank Poulsen travels to D.R. Congo to witness firsthand the source of these minerals and if they are financing war, unveiling the connection between the warfare and the mobile industry. He gets access to the Bisie mine, rich in casserite a tin oxide used for cell phones.

The mine is controlled by different armed groups where children are exploited and work restlessly in deplorable conditions to look for those minerals that end up in everybody’s phones.

Poulsen gets in touch with Nokia, one of the world’s largest mobile phone company, they cannot guarantee that the minerals they use to craft the phones are sourced from conflict minerals from Congo, therefore, contributing with the war.

“These minerals end up in a mobile phone like my Nokia. Does that make me responsible?,” the filmmaker reflects.

“We are all responsible,” a documentary subject answers.

This compelling film is a warning and a call for social and corporate responsibility.

Watch trailer.

Screens on Friday, November 18.

Granito: How to Nail a Dictator directed by Pamela Yates (U.S.A)

In 1984 Pamela Yates debuted her award winning documentary “When the Mountains Tremble” at the Sundance Festival exposing the massive killings of Mayan people by U.S. -aided Guatemalan Army while fighting the guerrilla revolutionary movement in 1982.

Twenty-five years later, a lawyer working to bring the genocide case to the Spanish National Court (Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize Rigoberta Menchu brought the case previously in 1999), asks Yates to dig in her old outtakes from her time in Guatemala back in 1982 to find incriminating evidence that could lead to bring six high commanders accused for the crimes to justice -- among them ex dictator General Efrain Rios Montt.

Granito ("little grain of sand" in Spanish, meaning that small personal contributions can lead to important changes) follows a group of archivists, lawyers, former guerrilla members, activists, anthropologists uniting forces to seek justice for the 200,000 fallen during the Guatemalan Civil War while navigating legal systems in both sides of the pond.

Sunday, November 20 at 3:15 p.m.

Children of War directed by Bryan Single (Uganda, U.S.A.)Justice Award: Cinema for Peace (Berlin)

This riveting documentary, winner of Justice Award, followed the three-year journey of former child soldiers in northern Uganda, who have escaped or been rescued by the Lord Resistance Army. Taken away from the throes of war, they undergo trauma therapy and emotional healing at Rachele Rehabilitation Center for the horrors they have endured from a tender age.

The former child warriors were abducted from their homes, villages and schools and forced to get immerse in a cult like culture led by self-proclaimed prophet and war criminal Joseph Kony.

A group of brave counsellors take on the challenging task to help the children to confront and to break from the brain washing with radical religious beliefs, raw abuse and forced participation in war crimes killing their own country people and even their own family members. They seek to help the children recover and overcome the feelings of guilt as they move toward building a new life.

Children of War is about the cathartic experience of healing as well as of forgiveness and hope in the aftermath of war.

Screens on Friday, November 18 at 7 p.m.

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