New film festival could become an annual event

Published 11:58 am Monday, May 16, 2011

There’s a film festival coming to Austin. If all goes well, it could be the first of many.

Austin’s Human Rights Commission, in partnership with the Paramount Theatre and the Welcome Center, will present the first HRC Film Festival May 20, 21 and 22 at the Paramount Theatre, free of cost.

“We’ve been talking about doing a film festival for quite some time,” said Kirsten Lindbloom, HRC chairwoman. “(We were) wanting to find another avenue to encourage people to talk about and engage on things related to human rights.”

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With the Blue Cross Blue Shield $40,000 grant, the HRC can finally put on a film festival. Each film deals with a different aspect of human rights, which HRC members say is a great way to talk about things people in Austin and around the nation deal with.

“(The film festival) was just wanting to find another avenue to encourage people to talk about and engage on things related to human rights,” Lindbloom said. “We felt like why not try and do something that’s a little broader in topic.”

The festival will feature several mainstream films as well as short movies and documentaries. On Friday, May 20, the HRC festival will open with “The Visitor,” a 2007 independent film staring Richard Jenkins about a college professor in New York who finds a foreign couple living in his apartment. The film deals with immigration and cultural ideas as the professor and couple learn about each other.

The bulk of the festival takes place Saturday, May 21. At 1 p.m. “Shrek,” will be shown, with a slightly new twist. The family favorite will be broadcast in Spanish, with English subtitles.

“It’s an affirmation of our Spanish speaking families,” Lindbloom said. “We’re providing a cultural experience for those who don’t normally see movies with subtitles.”

“Bullied,” the documentary about gay rights advocate Jamie Nabozny’s high school experiences with discrimination will be shown at 3 p.m. Nabozny spoke at Austin High School earlier this year about his lawsuit against Ashland Public School administrators, who ignored the constant bullying he faced as a result of his sexual orientation in the 1990s. A short discussion will follow the film festival viewing.

“Freeheld,” the 2008 Academy Award-winning short subject documentary, will be shown at 4 p.m. The film follows New Jersey police Lieutenant Laurel Hester’s fight to pass on her pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree, after Hester was diagnosed with lung cancer. Hester’s struggle ended less than a year before a New Jersey Supreme Court decision to allow same sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, which forced the state to legalize civil unions in New Jersey.

The day will end with “Persepolis,” an Oscar-nominated animated film about a young Iranian girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution. Based off of a graphic novel, the French-made film deals with her struggle to express herself amidst religious intoleranace and restrictions to women’s rights. Lindbloom is excited for this film to air, as she pushed to get the rights for it to be shown.

“It really does reflect the struggles that women deal with in the Middle East,” she said.

On May 22, the film “For Once in My Life,” will close the festival. It’s a film about a group of disabled musicians coming together as a band.

“This band, they’ve been together a whole long time,” Lindbloom said. “It’s really inspiring.”

Although the festival is free, donations are welcome, as the HRC hopes to make the film festival an annual event. HRC members aren’t counting on a Blue Cross Blue Shield grant for next year’s festival, but they still want to put it on with community support.

“We’d like to see this become an annual thing for us,” Lindbloom said. “That form of media is such a great way to get people to think about issues, to stir discussion.”