Films Highlighting Human Rights at Seoul Film Festival

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Films Highlighting Human Rights at Seoul Film Festival

The annual Seoul Human Rights Film Festival, organized by the Sarangbang Group for Human Rights, opens tomorrow for the sixth time. This time the organizers have left the dark underground screening rooms in universities and moved to a brighter side of the city in Kwanghwamun.

Divided into three sections, "Looking Back Masterpieces," "Issue Focus" and "Ani-Human," the festival features films concerning freedom of expression and documentaries which audiences do not have access to in local cinemas.

"We consider this year's festival as a bridge between our past and the future," said Kim Il-sook, the festival's program adviser. "We want our selection of films to appeal to a broader audience. That was our initial focus but a lot of films were censored. There is also a seasonal change as the festival will now take place in spring, instead of fall," she said, noting that spring is a symbol for a hopeful future for human rights in Korea.

The event has been targeted by the government for challenging the boundaries of political censorship in Korea. For screening the film "Red Hunt" in 1997, the festival's director and human rights activist, Seo Joon-shik, was charged with violating the National Security Law, unlawfully collecting donations, trespassing and not going through the censorship board. The documentary was based on a riot that took place in northern Cheju in 1948 and was hushed up by the government.

In the "Looking Back Masterpieces" section, the festival presents a list of 19 films recommended by its organizers, most of them documentaries. The section presents works such as Mandy Jacobson's "Calling the Ghosts: A Story About Rape, War and Women," a haunting documentary dealing with cases of rape in wartime, and Robert Epstein's "The Times of Harvey Milk," which deals with the assassination of the American gay activist Harvey Milk.

For "Issue Focus," the festival will screen films that deal with the infringement of human rights during the ethnic war between Israel and Palestine. With a total of 11 films, the section includes "Palestine: Story of Land 2," a documentary which deals with the history of Palestine from 1950 to 1991 and the Israeli film "119 Bullets and Three," which deals with the assassination of the progressive Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by an Israeli extremist.

The "Ani-Human," section presents animation shorts.

The Festival continues until May 23. In line with their educational focus, all admissions to the screenings are free. There are 77 seats in the theater and admission is in order of arrival. For more information, call 02-741-5363 (English service available).

by Park Soo-mee

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