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Davis, California

Saturday, April 13, 2024

‘Cameras as Witness’ explores global inequity

This Sunday Varsity Theatre will host Davis’ 4th annual United Nations Association Film Festival.

This year’s theme, Camera as Witness, advocates the whole notion of the democratization of the camera, said Jesse Drew, a technocultural studies professor at UC Davis. It is a more authentic and realistic view of the world shot by everyday people.

According to the festival’s mission statement on its website, the Stanford Film Society and United Nations Associate Midpenisula Chapter created the festival in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Jasmina Bojic, the founder and executive director of the festival and the United Nations Association Traveling Film Festival, said the main point of the film festival is to show something that cannot be seen in the general media … it is a great vehicle for discussion and we hope that people make action out of watching the films.

The festival, the Davis United Nations Association chapter, the city of Davis Human Relations Commission and the International House have collaborated to make the Davis event possible. The main festival will take place Oct. 19 through 26 at Stanford University in Palo Alto, showcasing 32 films out of a 360-applicant pool.

UNA chapters have the opportunity to rent films and create their own film festival consisting of between four to 10 films. Other than Davis, the traveling festival visits Miami, Berkeley and Washington D.C.

The films will begin Sunday at 4 p.m. and will explore global issues such as the war in Iraq, the genocide in Darfur, environmental activists around the world, HIV/AIDS in Lesotho, health consequences of radioactivity and an Afghan’s struggle to assimilate in France.

Former U.S. Marine Brian Steidle documented photographs for The Devil Came on Horseback, a film based on a novel by him and his sister, and was shown on campus earlier this school year. In Darfur, Steidle had access to places even the media could not enter. His horrified reaction brought him back to America to expose genocide and pose the question as to why the West hasn’t taken action.

Another film playing on Sunday is called The Battle of Chernobyl. Marvin Goldman, a UC Davis professor emeritus of radiation biology and biophysics, will give a five-minute commentary after the film. Goldman led the American team that wrote the report on the health risks of the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

The steam explosion blew open the reactor and a plume of gas left the reactor, Goldman said. Inside the reactor were two volatile atoms, iodine and cesium, which are biologically active. Iodine affects the thyroid glands and cesium acts like potassium which goes straight to the muscles.

Goldman said the film fails to emphasize that the particles from the steam dropped onto the grass, which the cows ate. Consequently, children drank the milk from the cows, which induced thousands of cancer cases. No one told the people not to feed their babies fresh milk, which was criminal. Goldman believes that the incident in Chernobyl was the final straw that ended the Soviet Union in 1991.

The film called Tsepong: A Clinic Called Hope, testifies to the risk of allowing the HIV virus to spread in Lesotho. Nearly one third of the city’s population is HIV positive. Doctors are worried that drug resistant strains will develop causing a potential spread to the West.

This film gives you a feel of what is involved in communities where whole families have been dissipated and children have been left without families, said Verena Borton, the president of the Davis chapter of Davis USA-UNA. It’s not just statistics, it’s one small community and you meet people from both sides – patients and those providing medical care.

Given the depth of the content in the films, the festival was created to educate people about controversial and foreign issues.

I think it is a very eclectic and universal offering of film, said Drew. It is a window into other countries and a global perspective that students desperately need.

Tickets for Camera as Witness can be purchased for $10 at the Varsity Theatre located at 616 Second St. For more information about the festival and the filmmakers, visit unaff.org.


June Quan can be reached at arts@californiaaggie.com


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