Human Rights Film Festival silences SU

17th Annual Human Rights Film Festival

Director Tula Goenka brings five movies to SU on the theme of silence.
Published: October 5, 2019 | Updated: October 7th, 2019 at 11:16 pm
The 17th Annual Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival
Q&A with 'Words from a Bear' filmmaker Jeffrey Palmer.

The 17th Annual Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival screened five movies last weekend that portray different meanings of the word ‘Silence’- Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements, Words From A Bear, Everything Must Fall, The Silence of Others and The Sweet Requiem.

The film festival hosted panel discussions and Q&A sessions after screenings which included guests like Professor Beth Ferri, Professor Michael Schwartz, and filmmaker Jeffrey Palmer. Filmmakers Rehad Desai and Almudena Carracedo held their Q&A sessions through skype. All five movies were carefully picked by director Tula Goenka and co-director Roger Hallas after watching hundreds of them all year round.

The 17th Annual Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival
Pamphlets from the 17th annual Human Rights Film Festival.

The festival started on Thursday, September 26 with a full house, screening Irene Taylor Brodsky’s Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements. Brodsky’s son, Jonas, began losing his hearing as a baby and underwent cochlear-implant surgery as a toddler. Brodsky’s parents also have cochlear-implants, but unlike Jonas, the majority of their lives were shaped by silence. In Goenka’s own words, the film is an ode to both sound and silence,

“It is a deeply personal and moving film,” said Goenka. “I have very high hopes from this movie. Last year’s opening film for SUHRFF – ‘The Sentence’, went on to win an Emmy this year.”

Irene Taylor Brodsky is an Oscar-nominated, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker whose first feature documentary, Hear and Now, won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007. She considers Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements to be a spiritual sequel to Hear and Now.

Friday saw the screening of Jeffery Palmer’s Words from a Bear, which talks about the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Navarro Scott Momaday. In the movie, expressive animations intersect with stunning footage of the Great Plains, as Momaday draws from his Kiowa ancestry and identity to pose universal questions about how we connect to our origins, each other, and the earth.

“I am grateful they (Shirley K. Sneve and Michael Kantor) chose me to embark upon this journey and tell this story the way it should be told, from the perspective of a Kiowa filmmaker,” Palmer said. “When I started making the film, I realized that it is my time to present some of these things to people. I am so surprised that there are a lot of them who don’t know about the relocation era.”

Words From a Bear is Palmer’s directorial debut.

Saturday started with acclaimed documentarian Rehad Desai’s Everything Must Fall, a galvanizing examination of the fight for free higher education at the #FeesMustFall student movement that burst onto the South African political landscape.

“In many ways the movement was broken by the repression that followed in 2016, people retreated to that repression back into their very South African political identities,” says Desai in a Skype Q&A session, when asked about the current update of the movement, one year after filming this documentary, taking his own alma mater as a case study in a growing intersectional global movement.

The 17th Annual Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival
Attendees at one of the festival's film screenings.

The afternoon continued with Almudena Carracedo’s The Silence of Others, a movie that captures the first attempt in 77 years to prosecute crimes of Spain’s 40-year dictatorship under General Francisco Franco (1939-1975).

“It is a seven-year production, the stories of stolen children started coming out of Spain in 2010,” said Carracedo via Skype. “Me and my husband were very impacted at the moment by Spain. We were living in New York and just had our daughter. We decided to move to Spain.”

The Silence of Others explores the shadows the past still casts upon the present in Spain.

The festival concluded with The Sweet Requiem, a story of a daughter and her father who fled their home in Tibet, escaping Chinese armed forces in an arduous journey across the Himalayas. It is a reflection on an ongoing but too often forgotten refugee crisis.

Avatar for Utkarsha Laharia

is an architect and an arts journalist.