The Amnesty International Film Festival wraps up its program of films focusing on human rights struggles across the globe. The screenings on Wed., March 31, and Thu., April 1, are at the Melwood Screening Room in Oakland; tickets are $6. Two free screenings are scheduled for Fri., April 2, at the University of Pittsburgh, and Sat., April 3, at Carnegie Mellon. All films will be screened via video projection. For more information see www.amnestyusa.org/filmfest, or call 412-291-9233.
8 p.m. Wed., March 31. Melwood
TIMOR LORO-SAE (Portugal, 2003, 11 min.). Vitor Lopes's animated short pays homage to the people of East Timor, who after centuries of colonialism and occupation are now free.
THE BIG DURIAN (Malaysia, 2003, 75 min.). Filmmaker Amir Muhammad finds the events of October 1987 curious. Not just the incident when a soldier burst into a Kuala Lumpur hotel blasting an M-16, but the subsequent media and governmental manipulation of the event, and its effects on the various people of the city. Muhammad interviews an odd cross-section of KL -- from a giggly Muslim teen-ager to a Chinese bullshit artist, poets to professors -- asking them to riff not only on the 1987 shooting, but on the country's uneasy factions of Malays, Chinese and Indians, and the social and political tensions this racial mix engenders. Muhammad's film is somewhat scattershot, careening from intentionally silly to maddeningly obtuse. But its broad snapshot of this densely populated, vibrant urban area -- and potential tinderbox -- has its fascinations. In various languages with subtitles.
8 p.m. Thu., April 1. Melwood
HEIR TO AN EXECUTION (USA, 2003, 100 min.). Ivy Meeropol's grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, were executed in 1953 after being accused of passing atomic secrets to the Soviets. Using archival news footage, home movies and interviews with family members and associates of the Rosenbergs, director Meeropol, through a personal journey, attempts to come to terms with the life and death of her famous forbearers.
7:30 p.m. Fri., April 2.
120 David Lawrence Hall, University of Pittsburgh
DEPORTED TO TORTURE (Denmark, 2003, 59 min.). Refugee Ashkan Panjahee had just turned 18 when the Danish authorities deported him to his native Iran, a "safe" country. Panjahee surfaced four years later, sporting visible evidence of torture. Line Fabricius and Hussein Ferdowsipor's film follows Panjahee's re-application for asylum in Denmark in 2003, through a system that seems loathe to acknowledge its earlier error or to compensate now through timeliness. What emerges in the film is a portrait of just one man, undoubtedly emblematic of many refugees, suspended in some curious bureaucratic limbo between torture and freedom, past and future. In Danish and Farsi with subtitles.
HOME SWEET HOME (Denmark, 2003, 59 min.) Something's again rotten in the State of Denmark: the Dansk Folkeparti, a nationalist political movement rallying to keep foreigners from infiltrating Danish society. Documentarians Dorthe Vest Anderson and Paul-Erik Heilbuth filter the pro/con arguments of immigration by pitting the stories of two men against each other: Mammal, an Iranian dental surgeon trained in Denmark but moving after 17 years due to anti-immigrant pressures; and Alex, a Danish family man/Folkeparti enthusiast whose university degree in religion/literary science has him working seasonally in a chocolate factory. Despite an overly ominous musical soundtrack and titter-inducing footage of Prez Dubya speaking Spanish and hugging Mexican workers in Texas, the film succeeds in defining how the global economy is having an impact on small, homogenous countries. It succeeds even more in showing humanities majors everywhere why they might consider becoming pre-med students, so that corporate headhunters can shower them with lucrative job offers 'round the world. In Danish with subtitles.
7:30 p.m. Sat., April 3
Room 2315, Doherty Hall, Carnegie Mellon University
AL-JAZEERA, ARAB VOICES (France, 2003, 52 min.)."We get accused no matter what we do," says Khaled Al Mahmoud, among the key staffers of the Qatar-based, Arabic-language TV news service Al-Jazeera who are tracked in this scrappy hour-long documentary. Khaled notes that, contrary to charges of anti-Western bias, the station spends more airtime on American leaders than on Arab. Maybe so, but for Westerners the real value of Ali Essafi's documentary is the Arab perspective it captures during the two weeks preceding last year's U.S. invasion of Iraq: A newsreader calls President Bush "a gangster with a nuclear arsenal," while Palestinians who die opposing the Israeli occupation are "martyrs." Meanwhile, Hassan Ibrahim prepares his commentaries, and surprisingly young editor-in-chief Dima Khalib plans stories with her mostly male staff. Staffers debate politics behind the scenes, and footage of daily life provides some context, but the highlight might be Khaled's visit to a U.S. Army base, where he's hosted by a visibly discomfited PR officer in camo. In Arabic and other languages, with subtitles.
LEST WE FORGET (Canada/USA, 2003, 57 min.) Altering 9/11 footage to resemble an old newsreel, filmmaker Jason DaSilva asks us to step back from the event and compare its aftermath to that of Pearl Harbor: Both attacks, after all, resulted in the targeting of "foreign" (or foreign-looking) Americans, with hate crimes and unconstitutional internment. In 1942, the toll included 120,000 Japanese-Americans stripped of their homes, jobs and belongings and transported to concentration camps. Today, the numbers might be smaller, but try telling that to the Arabs, Muslims and other foreign-born folk dragged to detention centers with no semblance of due process. Drawing historical parallels can be tricky, and by addressing both hate crimes and summary detention, DaSilva gives full attention to neither; I'm also not crazy about his appropriation of images from humongous peace rallies to advance his much more specific agenda. But DaSilva's agit-proppy 55-minute movie draws some noteworthy parallels, and tells a few powerful and important -- and too-easily glossed over -- stories. In English and Urdu with subtitles.