The Amnesty International Film Festival, co-presented by the City of West Hollywood, has announced its 2005 program. 27 human rights documentaries, shorts, and feature films will screen at the Directors Guild of America from May 24 through 29, 2005. The festival is supported by the Academy of Arts, Motion Pictures and Sciences.

The Opening Night kicks off this topical and timely human rights film festival by addressing the infringement on individual liberties post-9/11 with the film “Strip Search”. Acclaimed film director Sidney Lumet joins forces with Emmy-winning “Oz” creator Tom Fontana to create this dramatic masterpiece. Starring Glenn Close and Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Strip Search” explores the stories of two different suspects, who are questioned and then strip-searched by government officials, in an attempt to protect the public from an imminent terrorist attack. Artists for Amnesty will present the Excellence in Filmmaking Award to Sidney Lumet, Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson at the Opening Night Gala Event, hosted by special guests. A panel discussion will follow the film.

The War on Terror is also the focus of “State of Fear”, which promts parallels between the policies of the Peruvian government under Alberto Fujimori and the current US administration. The documentary raises questions about how an open society can balance demands for security with democracy.

The 2005 Oscar-nominated Best Documentary Feature, “Twist of Faith”, will have its LA Premiere at the festival. The film follows the story of Tony Comes as he deals with his inner turmoil. He discovers that the priest who sexually abused him as a boy lives a few miles away and decides to open up the lines of communication. Comes’ decision to acknowledge the suffering that has infected every aspect of his adult life forces him at last to confront emotions and fears he has long suppressed, while maintaining his sincere faith in God and his loyalty to the Catholic Church.

The documentary “Shake Hands With The Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire” unfolds the story of the UN peacekeeper stationed in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Dallaire found himself thrown into an unfamiliar country with untrained troops who did not want to be there. This compelling tale is told from the perspective of Dallaire’s return to the country a decade later, revisiting the killing fields that still haunt him.

This year’s Amnesty International Film Festival also focuses on the chronicle of the human rights violations in Latin America with three key films: “The Devil’s Miner”, “Boxers and Ballerinas” and “Compadre”. “The Devil’s Miner” describes the historical role of child labor in Bolivian silver mines, an exploitation dating back to the 16th century. This is a special hosted screening in advance of its broadcast on the Emmy-award winning PBS
series Independent Lens. “Boxers and Ballerinas” cuts through the romantic mystery of Cuba, and highlights the political blast of US-Cuba relations. “Compadre” raises important questions on the role of filmmakers, as well as the viewing public, in affecting change.

Film Festival Director Alessandra Gallo states: “Filmmaking gives a voice to those who are often unheard and frequently prompt governments or the international community to act. For all those whose lives have been affected by violations of human rights, it is essential that these stories remain in the mainstream media.”

The Amnesty International Film Festival now screens annually in Seattle, Salt Lake City, West Hollywood, Pittsburgh and Asheville, NC. This year Amnesty International USA is launching a new venture with National Geographic to start an annual festival in Washington DC in the fall.

For more info, visit the festival website.

Posted on May 5, 2005 in Festivals by

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