Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival

October 3, 2016 - 12:54am
Annual Syracuse Human Rights Film Festival screened documentaries throughout the weekend.

The 14th annual Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival wrapped up on Saturday after three days of documentary screenings that shed light on humanitarian issues across the world, such as the sovereignty of indigenous lands, the Syrian refugee crisis and LGBTQ rights.

“This festival is mainly for college students,” said founder Tula Goenka, who co-directed the event with fellow SU professor Roger Hallas. “Besides going to school and earning a degree, you will have to think: What is your responsibility as a human being? How are you going to give back to society?”

September 25, 2014 - 8:34pm
Review: With the experimental film 'The Missing Picture,' Cambodian director Rithy Panh answers the question: How do you tell the story of the dead when they leave us without a trace?

The Khmer Rouge regime killed nearly 2 million people while in power in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. It targeted those who had affiliations with the former government, professionals, intellectuals and ethnic minorities. This period of genocide came to be known as the era of the Killing Fields, as the Khmer Rouge sent their victims to be “reeducated” in the fields, with the primary means of reeducation being torture and execution.

September 25, 2014 - 3:54pm
Review: Syrian director Tala Derki paints a violent reality of the ongoing Syrian unrest with the documentary 'Return to Homs.'

A nation is burning right now. As we sit in our pretty little homes fuming over petty little problems, millions in Syria are being snuffed out. And as we glance at the newspaper, a country where a civil war rages since 2011 finds no place. It is old news.

Talal Derki’s documentary Return to Homs, which screened at the Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival last Saturday, is a reminder to the world to act.

September 23, 2014 - 9:42pm
Review: An emotional cinematic core helps the documentary 'American Vagabond' resonate as a tale of diverse humanity.

American Vagabond is a touching story about the power of love and perseverance. It's a relatively short film that packs a punch in 85 minutes and can be a tearjerker if you get easily emotional.

September 22, 2014 - 8:44pm
Review: Filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor's take on the horrid world of Indian sex trafficking is expertly acted and directed, which makes it all the more difficult to stomach.

It takes immense amount of courage to watch a film that is based on real characters and real stories. While the purpose of film often is about taking one away from reality, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Lakshmi does the exact opposite; it hits you in the face with truth.

Lakshmi chronicles the life of a 14-year-old who is forced into the vicious cycle of prostitution and violence after being kidnapped from her village in Andhra Pradesh....

September 21, 2014 - 4:11pm
Review: Thomas Allen Harris probes into African-American culture with his film 'Through a Lens Darkly,' but occasionally gets in the way of his own story.

Through A Lens Darkly, a documentary film given to us by director Thomas Allen Harris, kicked off the 12th annual Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival on Thursday, Sept. 18. In it, photographs, interviews and historical footage are expertly woven into a montage exposing a hole in the history books where black photographers should be.

September 29, 2013 - 4:34pm
'Kai Po Che!' which screened on Saturday at the Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival, overuses montage and only skims the surface of its few merits.

What exactly should a montage do?

It can show a rise to power or a fall from grace, a humorous series of failures or a chain of successes. One thing it probably should not do, however, is perform most of the heavy lifting for a film’s central friendship or relationship.

The feeble middlebrow Bollywood drama Kai Po Che! didn’t get that memo.

September 29, 2013 - 4:26pm
'Intersexion,' which screened Saturday at the Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival, contains elements that make for a good, moving story, but the subject would be better served in a form other than a documentary.

The problem with many advocacy documentaries is that not enough filmmakers ask themselves, “Does this need to be a movie?” The result is a number of well-meaning but inconsequential films whose messages would be just as well served by a TV special or an article.

September 29, 2013 - 4:17pm
'The Act of Killing,' which screened on Saturday at the Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival, tells the story of a 1960s Indonesian death squad through some of Hollywood's most beloved genres.

The Act of Killing features one of the most striking openings of the year: a group of women dressed in pink emerge from the mouth of a fish-shaped building, while a man in black robes and another man in drag stand, arms raised, in front of a waterfall.

It’s a beguiling, haunting opening that would be memorably surreal in any film, let alone a documentary about genocide.

September 29, 2013 - 4:07pm
'Off Label,' which screened on Friday at the Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival, follows no principles of effective storytelling and fails to draw connections between unrelated individuals.

Watching Off Label is like being in a conversation with a reasonably intelligent but digressive person. It starts on a broad topic and jumps from tangent to tangent, trying unsuccessfully to tie them all together until it’s not clear what point it’s trying to make at all. Maybe all of the points. Maybe none of them.