Lights, Camera, Film Festival

Where can you get Sundance-worthy films without having to wade through the celebrities and celebrity entourages who take over that once-humble film festival every January?

At the National Conference for Media Reform Film Festival, of course!

In fact, our film festival includes two Sundance winners — Middle of Nowhere and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry — and you won’t have to elbow aside Harvey Weinstein to get into the screenings.

Our festival launched last night with a screening of the documentary Shadows of Liberty. Here’s a quick roundup of our other films:

Middle of Nowhere: Written and directed by Ana DuVernay, Middle of Nowhere centers on a medical student whose husband is incarcerated. Winner of the 2012 Sundance Award for Best Director, the film chronicles Ruby’s fight to stay connected to her husband while rebuilding her life on the outside. The conference features two related sessions on Saturday morning: “Call Me (Come Back Home): Fighting the Cost of Prison Calls, part 1 and part 2.”

Race, Power & American Sports: Featuring a conversation between noted sportswriter Dave Zirin and Media Education Foundation Executive Director Sut Jhally, the film examines how sports culture has reproduced and challenged notions of race and racial difference. Sports, Zirin says, “force people to confront ideas and situations that they would otherwise be mentally segregated from.”

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry: First-time director Alison Klayman’s portrait of acclaimed artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei won the 2012 Sundance Special Jury Prize. Famous for posing with middle finger raised in front of various cultural and political sites around the world, Ai Weiwei continually pushes back against China’s repressive political culture. At one point he’s asked to identify his political party. “None,” he says. “I’m an independent artist.”

Miss Representation: Featuring interviews with Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Condoleezza Rice and others, Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s film considers how media representations of women help explain the minute numbers of women in positions of corporate and political power. “There is no appreciation for women intellectuals,” says a high school student interviewed for the film. “It’s all about the body, not about the brain.” The session Miss Representation: Fighting Back will follow the screening.

Latinos Beyond Reel: Filmmakers Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun look at the rise in hate crimes targeting the Latino community and ask whether media depictions of Latinos are partly to blame. Featuring interviews with Juan González, Alex Nogales and others, the film explores stereotypes, racial profiling and the enduring portrayal of Latinos as “illegal aliens.” The session The Impact of Hate Speech on Latinos will follow this screening.

High Tech, Low Life: Steve Maing’s film profiles 57-year-old “Tiger Temple” and 27-year-old “Zola,” who report on sensitive news throughout China. Shifting between the two men, the film chronicles their mutual need to tell the stories the government wants suppressed — including the story of a girl raped by a man with ties to the regime. “My courage only exists in my writings and news reports,” says Tiger Temple, perhaps a bit modestly. “Everything has its story.”

Photo courtesy of High Tech, Low Life

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good