"I've been exposed to the issue of terrorism since I was a boy, living in Chile, where we endured a government coup d'etat," says Andres Tapia-Urzua of Highland Park. This 18-year veteran filmmaker is using his childhood experience as inspiration for a planned Pittsburgh film festival portraying the social effects of terrorism. Titled "My Terrorism," the two-day festival will be presented through Pittsburgh Filmmakers in February 2005.
Tapia-Urzua, a video production instructor at Filmmakers, in 2000 launched a production company, Plan-Z-Now, which markets independent films. One of Tapia-Urzua's most notable films, When Video Came, produced in collaboration with Ralph Vituccio at Carnegie Mellon University in 2003, examines the development of video technology and its influence in our culture.
The festival's goal, says Tapia-Urzua, "is to expose the many levels of terrorism, what it is and how it affects our lives." There is too much emphasis on international terrorism in the media because of 9/11 and the Iraq war, he says; we have forgotten several levels of terror -- domestic terror in our homes, the terror of crime in our communities. And international terror includes the enormous amount of control a government can have over citizens.
Richard Pell, a CMU grad, submitted his short documentary Don't Call Me Crazy on the Fourth of July for the festival. The film discusses the outlandish claims of local sandwich-board street protestor, the late Bob Lansberry. "This guy used to hear voices and thought the government was controlling his mind," Pell says. Lansberry protested against mind control for years, but it was the letters he wrote to federal officials that started his FBI file, which the movie examines, connecting some of the dots that explain Lansberry's beliefs.
Another festival film, Hysteria, by California filmmaker Antero Alli, tells a fictional story of a Croatian Catholic soldier sent to bomb an abandoned church during the Serb/Croatian war of the 1990s. Inside the church, the soldier finds Gypsies, who befriend him and offer a hallucinogenic cocktail, which prompts visions of the Virgin Mary and a religious quest.
"My film unites religious fundamentalism to violence, but is sensitive to the beliefs of Christians," says Alli, who doesn't subscribe to organized religion himself.
Tapia-Urzua's own festival contribution, Terminal, compares acts of international terrorism to other forms of suffering and death. The film, he says, asks "Why are atrocities such as disease and starvation not labeled as terrorism?"