United Nations Association Film Festival

Documentaries From Around the Globe

Now in its 20th year, the United Nations Association Film Festival will showcase 60 documentary films from around the globe. Each film offers a revealing glimpse of the state of human rights and culture.

The film festival opens Thursday and has screenings in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Stanford and San Francisco through Oct. 29. This year’s theme is “Respect.”

“We respect what our filmmakers have contributed to human rights issues here at and home over the last 20 years,” said UNAFF Founder and Executive Director Jasmina Bojic.

In “Remember Baghdad,” London-based filmmaker Fiona Murphy tells the story of the large Jewish community that lived in Iraq for more than 2,000 years and then vanished in a generation. The tensions started when the British created what became the modern country of Iraq after World War I and worsened with the creation of Israel and the conflicts that followed. After 1967, Saddam Hussein mobilized a mass movement against the Jews and they fled.

“The film itemizes the way people are stigmatized,” said Murphy. “They start out completely Iraqi. Then they started dressing like the British in western clothes. Gradually they became foreigners in their own land. They were gradually stigmatized until it became impossible to live there.”

The film screens this Saturday at 9:15 p.m. at the Midpeninsula Community Media Center in Palo Alto.

In “The Women’s March,” the filmmakers followed eight protesters in five different cities who took part in the women’s marches across the country on Jan. 21 of this year. Director Mischa Hedges, who hails from the North Bay, said that while much has happened since January, the story of the event still engages people.

“I think some people felt let down that everything didn’t change after that day, but it’s a reminder that people need to keep showing up,” he said. “Our hope is that the film serves as a tool that people can use to rally their communities and stand up for what we believe in.”

The film screens this Friday at 4 p.m. at the Mitchell Park Community Center in Palo Alto.

Also this Saturday at 11:15 a.m., the film festival will host its FREE Kids Program at the Mitchell Park Community Center. The session will include live jazz by a local high school band and will show the film “Liyana.”

“Liyana” is an animated tale of a fictional girl whose story was created by five orphaned children in Swaziland. The film weaves back and forth between the animated story of Liyana and documentary scenes of the children’s day-to-day lives in Swaziland.

“The children in the film have had some very difficult times in their lives,” said co-director Amanda Kopp. “We hoped the use of a fictional character would create a safe space where they could share their amazing creativity, dreams and fears, while ensuring that they didn’t feel exposed or vulnerable in the process.”

Visit www.unaff.org to learn about the 11-day festival and to purchase tickets.