Lights, camera, international film action

| Staff Reporter

Courtesy of Ari Folman

Ari Folman’s film, “Waltz with Bashir,” begun the International Human Rights Film Festival with a showing on Thursday night. It is an animated Israeli documentary about the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Films about the Israeli-Lebanese conflict, the election of the first female African president, multicultural clashes in France and protests of Burmese monks will arrive at Washingotn University this weekend. Sigma Iota Rho (SIR), the honor society for international studies, is holding its annual International Human Rights Film Festival this weekend, in order to build student awareness of international conflicts overseas.

The film festival began Thursday night with a showing of “Waltz with Bashir,” an animated Israeli documentary about the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. SIR will show “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” a documentary about the strife in Liberia that led to the election of current Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at 7 p.m. Friday night. On Saturday there are two films: “La Haine,” a French film that deals with police racism in diverse suburbs of France at 3 p.m., and “Burma VJ,” a documentary about the protests of Burmese monks at 7 p.m. All showings will take place in Steinberg Hall.

SIR has held the festival since 2007. According to International Events Coordinator Chris Riha, SIR makes an effort to represent different topics and places around the world with award-quality films. Past films have included “Born into Brothels,” the winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary, and “The War Game,” which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1966.

“I think people have heard of the titles of the films. Many students we’ve heard from seem like they’ll be able to attend at least one of the films this weekend,” senior and SIR president Christine Orchard said.

While SIR held the film festival over several weeks in the past, this year is the first time that SIR will condense the films into a single weekend. “We thought that in order to focus on the discussion on the films by having them over the weekend, hopefully people could attend a few of them and discuss their opinions about the issues addressed in the films,” Orchard said.

Riha is also optimistic about the festival’s change in scheduling. “I am excited to see how it goes,” Riha said. “I think there was a lot that went into the decision. I think that moving it by ThurtenE and promoting it as a film festival will help encourage attendance.”

SIR hopes that watching movies brings the issues alive for students.

“The issues are very different, but they all focus on some international issue,” Orchard said. “It’s a really good way to discuss something going on in the world in an entertaining way. It’s a great way to relax and keep informed about the world at the same time.”

Riha believes that Wash. U. students can gain meaningful knowledge of international conflicts through watching the films.

“Cinema is a very powerful art form,” Riha said. “I think that it is able to tell stories and convey emotions about very powerful situations. These are all based on real crises that affect human rights. This is a very eye-opening experience to learn about a wide variety of different topics.”