, Newburyport, MA

January 18, 2013


PEM hosts 10th annual Human Rights Film Festival

By Lars Trodson

---- — As it has for the past 10 years, The Peabody Essex Museum, will help celebrate Martin Luther King weekend by showcasing films that present profiles in global courage.

This year the festival will show six films over the three-day weekend that Jennifer Evans, founder and scheduler, hopes will render audience members both entertained and inspired.

The festival begins tomorrow and runs through Monday. Each day the films begin at 1 p.m. and the program concludes at 5 p.m. Evans suggests making reservations online.

The films focus on diverse subject matter, ranging from Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei; to an American activist who bid on public land and then held it in reserve for conservation, much to the federal government’s disapproval; to a unique look at breast cancer victims who believe that all that pink ribbons and happy talk surrounding cancer survival can mask the reality that breast cancer kills.

Evans said that each of these films is designed to connect with the spirit of Martin Luther King, the Nobel Prize-winning Baptist minister whose birth is now celebrated as a national holiday.

“The people in these films are not afraid to speak their minds,” Evans said.

Here’s a quick look at the films:

“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” tomorrow.

“Ai Weiwei is very current,” Evans said. “He’s an important contemporary artist and he’s on a very public stage right now,dealing with some very large issues. He transcends language and culture.”

Evans said the Peabody Essex Museum also has “a 200 year connection with China and we’ve exhbitied Ai Weiwei ‘s work in the past, so his role as an activist and artist fits our mission.”

“Bidder 70,” tomorrow, 3:15 p.m.

“This is a fascinating American story about Tim DeChristopher. He’s gotten into trouble in this country,” Evans said.

As bidder No. 70, DeChristopher derailed the federal Bureau of Land Management Oil and Gas lease auction, acting to safeguard thousands of acres in Utah. He bid $1.7 million for 22,000 acres during the federal Bureau of Land Management Oil and Gas lease auction with no intention to pay or drill. For his disruption, he was indicted on two federal charges.

“They Call It It Myanmar — Lifitng The Curtain,” 1 p.m., Sunday.

“This movie got a beautiful write-up in the New York Times. It’s a strong and excellent film that has footage that is rarely seen, from Burma (now called Myanmar), footage filmed surreptitiously.”

Myanmar is one of the globe’s civil rights hot-spots and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film, calling it a “thing of beauty.”

Evans said the film’s producer, Deborah C. Hoard, will be at the event to answer questions.

“Words of Witness,” 3:15 p.m., Sunday.

This movie also has an international focus: Egypt.

“This film is about a courageous young woman (22-year-old journalist Heba Afify), who takes to the streets of Cairo to report on the turmoil on the streets of Egypt,” Evans said.

“She tweets and texts and she puts herself in a lot of danger and her parents are worried but she does it anyway. It’s quite interesting to see these events from the ground level, it helps us experience that turmoil.”

“Pink Ribbons Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy,” 1 p.m., Monday.

“This movie deals with a complicated issue: breast cancer,” said Evans.

The film frames an interesting perspective: While such organizations as the Susan G. Komen Foundation raises funds for cancer research, the question becomes how those dollars are spent, Evans said.

“It also shows how the devastating reality of breast cancer becomes obscured by all these vibrant pep rally walks that take place,” she added. “They can overshadow the people who are actually undergoing treatment and how they can be made to feel they somehow did not do enough to survive their own illness. This is very interesting and I highly recommend it.”

“Salaam Dunk,” 3:15 p.m., Monday.

This takes place in Iraq and is the story of Iraqi women who are basketball players (from the American University of Iraq).

“We learn about their experiences since the American invasion of 2003,” Evans explained. “These women were never allowed to participate in sports, but even since 2003 they have to be very clandestine.”

They are also being coached by an American but she’s not always aware of their rules; like how the women have to be veiled if they want to exercise outdoors.


What: The 10th annual Human Rights Film Festival in recognition of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Where: Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem, Mass.

When: Saturday, Jan. 19 through Monday Jan. 21. Reservations recommended online by Friday, Jan. 18.

How: Call (978) 745-9500, or visit