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Films to Watch For: 7-30-10

July 30, 2010

Films to Watch For: 7-30-10

9500 Liberty

I had the privilege of seeing an advance screening of a remarkable documentary last night. 9500 Liberty is being screened to community groups around the country – and especially in Arizona – in advance of its theatrical (and hopefully television) release in the fall. It was shown here in Boston, by MIRA: the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. 
            The showing marked the first day of implementation of Arizona’s draconian SB1070 – appropriate because the film documents the experience of the community of Manassas, Virginia, where the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted in a very similar law in 2007. The furor that followed is documented in compelling detail by two young filmmakers who clearly didn’t know what they were getting into when they first filmed a street confrontation between Hispanic demonstrators and a white suburbanite.
            They knew they were onto something crucial, though, and had the guts and determination to follow it up. Over the following couple of years, they filmed every aspect of the growing community conflict that they could, much of their documentation going directly to YouTube, where it, in turn, became a key part of the community debate.
            A sociologist friend who saw the film with me was immediately inspired with the film’s teaching potential. Among the themes it illuminates are the power of elites, opinion leaders, and public servants in local politics; community organizing in the age of the internet; the impact of the blogosphere; and many, many more. If you’re concerned about the way the immigration debate is going in this country, you have to see this film.
            The Project’s website has a listing of upcoming venues. If you don’t see one that works for you, get in touch with your local theater and public television station. Much of the material which went into this film can also be seen on the project’s YouTube Channel, but my personal recommendation would be to see the full-length film first. NOTE: See the link for “House Party Campaign” in the upper right corner of the “Screenings” page. The producers are offering to send a copy of the program to anyone willing to organize a showing in their own community.

Enemies of the People

This film received a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, and was picked by Human Rights Watch for its Nestor Almendros Award for Courage in Filmmaking. I haven’t seen it yet, but in light of our recent discussion of the Cambodian war crimes trials, wanted to pass on an alert to our readers. To quote from Stephen Holden’s review in the July 29, 2010, New York Times, From the Killing Fields, on a Mission of Truth:

“Some say that almost two million people died in the killing fields,” declares Thet Sambath, a polite, soft-spoken Cambodian journalist for The Phnom Penh Post, in the opening moments of the documentary “Enemies of the People.” He adds, “Nobody understands why so many people were killed at that time…”
            The heart of the film, a collaboration by Mr. Thet Sambath and the British documentarian Rob Lemkin, consists of meticulously cataloged interviews conducted during nearly a decade with perpetrators of the mass execution, many of them rural farmers living in northwest Cambodia. As they open up and matter-of-factly describe horrific acts, the camera scours their weather-beaten faces…
            At times, Mr. Thet Sambath suggests a one-man Cambodian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Instead of affixing blame, he seeks the healing power of confession.

The list of upcoming screenings listed on the film’s website is pretty sparse so far. It’s opening in NYC today, and in LA next week. Again, contact your nearby theater owner or chain. The film is  available on Netflix.

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