The films are heavy, intense and, more importantly, thought provoking.
Tory Russell makes no attempt to sugar coat the fact these films are “super-heavy” as we chat about the upcoming Amnesty International Film Festival that runs during the final weekend of November at The Old Fire Hall.
Triage follows Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. James Orbinski when he was a field doctor during the Somali famine and the Rwandan genocide and how he was forced to decide who got treatment, who was given food and who got to live.
Missing Lives is one of a handful of short films being screened throughout the weekend.
The 14-minute short sheds light on the disappearance of more than 3,000 people in Chechyna since 1999 as part of the Russian military’s “counter-terrorism operations”.
In The Greatest Silence, American filmmaker Lisa F. Jackson looks at how rape is used as a weapon of war in the Congo and how tens of thousands of women and girls have been kidnapped, raped and tortured by soldiers from foreign militias and the Congolese army.
Russell, who’s been involved with Amnesty since high school, is coordinating this year’s festival which is running in conjunction with the Yukon Global Arts Jam and sees films from all over the world including Somalia, Venezuela, Iraq, Kenya, Tibet and Afghanistan.
Russell says while some people are afraid to look at these parts of the world, it is important and necessary to give people the option to be enlightened.
“A lot of people don’t want to hear or see these things,” said Russell. “But it’s a big world out there with shocking disparity and I would rather know.
“Every human right that we enjoy, even here in cushy cushy land, people fought for. It’s not a birthright anywhere on the planet. If you are a woman who votes, someone fought for that for you.”
All the films being shown at the festival are documentary style and Russell feels that is the best method for shedding light on the harsh realities taking place right now in many parts of the world.
“You get a longer in-depth story with documentaries,” explains Russell. “Mainstream media can give you headlines and generally they’re not that critical, but with these films it’s an opportunity to tell a full story independent from the constraints of mainstream media.”
As part of this year’s festival, Russell has arranged to have a local connection with some of the films.
Yukon Human Rights Commissioner Lois Moorcroft is familiar with the Congo and will be chairing a discussion following The Greatest Silence.
She has also arranged for Yukon Medical Health Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley to speak prior to the screening of Triage.
“This festival is excellent for engaging audiences and, with that, generating awareness and action,” says Russell. “It’s critical we continue to do that.”
The films show at The Old Fire Hall Friday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m., with the doors opening at 6:30 p.m. They show again Saturday and Sunday with the doors opening at 12:30 p.m.
Admission is by donation and tickets are available at Well-Read Books or at the door.
Donations of non-perishable foods for Yukon families will also be accepted.