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Sunday, 02 September 2012 00:00

Human Rights Watch Film Festival highlights transgressions
Written by Diane Carson
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For over two decades the Human Rights Watch Film Festival has featured fiction and nonfiction works that expose historical and contemporary transgressions in all their manifestations. On Tuesdays throughout the month of September Webster University will show four such films of personal and public stories, government and media practices that offend human rights.

The series begins with Reel Injun, a documentary that surveys Hollywood’s representations of Native people from the earliest silent to more recent films. As any avid film viewer knows, the overwhelming portrayal has been stereotypical and insulting. The many clips included in Reel Injun confirm that judgment. Additional analytical insight comes from numerous brief interviews with, for example, Clint Eastwood, Russell Means, and Jim Jarmusch.

The next Tuesday, comically playing with and mocking those unrealistic clichés, Chris Eyre’s Smoke Signals immerses us in the lives of Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire, living on their Idaho res. The death of Victor’s father sends the two young men on a road trip to Phoenix. Based on Sherman Alexi’s “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in heaven,” Smoke Signals is the first American film written, directed, co-produced by, and starring Indians. As such, it provides an amusing and wonderful corrective to conventional depictions.

The next film, director Phillip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence, dramatizes the Australian practice of abducting Aboriginal children from their parents, forcing them into training facilities hundreds of miles away. Based on a true story in 1931, three Aboriginal girls escape their captors, determined to walk the 1200 miles back to their homes. Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted, Rabbit-Proof Fence personalizes the cruel, misguided state policy in effect until 1970. The last film in the Human Rights Film series and unavailable for preview, Thick Dark Fog tells the story of this same practice here in the U.S. through the story of a Lakota Sioux man, Walter Littleman.

All films show at Webster University’s Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesdays in the following order: Reel Injun September 4th, Smoke Signals September 11, Rabbit-Proof Fence September 18 and Thick Dark Fog September 25th. For information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or you may go to the web at:

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