CSU’s virtual ACT Human Rights Film Festival makes connections March 19-28

“Connection” will be the theme when the ACT Human Rights Film Festival returns to screens March 19-28, featuring a dozen feature-length documentaries and several short films, many of them Colorado premieres.

“In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, ways of connecting to our community are even more important,” said Greg Dickinson, festival producer and head of Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University. “ACT has been one of the powerful ways for people to join together, to experience others’ stories, and to imagine a world beyond our challenging present.”

A virtual kickoff party will be held at 5:30 p.m. on March 9, featuring festival highlights, film trailers, and a trivia contest with free tickets/passes as prizes.

“The 2021 film slate showcases stories that are both challenging and inspiring,” ACT Managing Director Beth Seymour said. “While we remain physically apart, these must-see films help to build connections and define what it means to be human.”

Live events

The sixth annual CSU film festival, which is being held virtually, will feature several live events, including the opening-night screening of Duty Free. Director Sian-Pierre Regis and his mother, Rebecca Danigelis, the subject of the film, will participate in a question-and-answer session after the screening. The film is about the adventure that Regis gives the 75-year-old Danigelis after she faces ageism and gets fired from her lifelong job as a hotel housekeeper.

The film trailer for Duty Free

Another highlight of the festival is the March 26 “Alumni Night Out,” featuring the short film Mr. Somebody, which premiered at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival and is about a former gang member of the Crips searching for redemption after 14 years behind bars. The executive producer of the film is CSU Department of Communication Studies alumnus Anthony Grimes, who will join moderator Tanara Landor of the CSU Alumni Association for a conversation after the screening.

The festival, which will be a mix of livestream screenings and pre-recorded events that can be viewed any time during the 10 days, will also feature the North American premiere of Alina Gorlova’s This Rain Will Never Stop, which won Best First Appearance at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

“Just as we have done ever since the 2016 inaugural festival, the members of ACT’s programming committee have selected some of the most accomplished and inspiring examples of nonfiction filmmaking from the past year,” said ACT Director of Programming Scott Diffrient. “They include works that celebrate the heroic efforts of women to shine a light on institutional abuses and fight for their rights — whether on the streets of Dublin (where pro-choice activists made history three years ago by successfully campaigning against Ireland’s nationwide ban on abortions) or in California’s correctional facilities (where female prisoners and their advocates have blown the whistle on the practice of forced sterilizations).”

The film trailer for Mr. Somebody

Inclusion and empathy

Diffrient added that the majority of the films chosen for this year’s lineup were directed or co-directed by women.

“This, I believe, highlights an encouraging trend in human rights cinema, which has increasingly provided creative-expressive-investigative opportunities to people who, for no other reason besides their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, have faced discrimination and other obstacles in more mainstream professional callings,” he said. “Empathy — the capacity to feel another person’s emotions (including the experiences of elation or pain, joy or anguish) — is what this year’s films deliver in buckets, and I anticipate that audiences will be moved to both laughter and tears over the 10-day span of our festival.”

As in past years, the Odell Brewing Company has created a special “Screening Sessions” beer in honor of the ACT Human Rights Film Festival — a pale ale with tropical hops that is available at the Fort Collins brewery for a limited time.

Festival passes are $55, and individual tickets are $10. Student ticket prices are half off; to receive the code, email info@actfilmfest.org. Tickets and more information are available on the ACT virtual hub.

ACT banner

Community input

ACT engages a 20-person committee of faculty, staff, students, local filmmakers, and community volunteers/activists to review films and help inform the program’s artistic selection.

“Though faced with the same challenges as others around us, the ACT team has persevered,” Dickinson said. “Rather than giving up on the possibility of the festival, we have created a rich digital experience. We certainly long for gathering in theaters, but we also celebrate that the digital festival makes these stories — and our ability to build community — accessible to so many people across the country.”

ACT is produced by CSU’s Department of Communication Studies, with generous support from CSU partners that include the College of Liberal Arts; Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts; Economics; Women & Philanthropy; Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Endowment; University Communications; Honor’s Program; CSU Alumni Association; and the departments Philosophy, Ethnic Studies, Anthropology and Geography, English, Sociology, Political Science, Journalism and Media Communication, History, Art and Art History, and Music, Theater and Dance.

Off-campus partners include the City of Fort Collins-Fort Fund, The Lyric, Colorado Creative Industries, the Eye Center of Northern Colorado, Odell Brewing, KUNC 91.5, the Colorado Office of TV, Media, and Film, and dozens of individual supporters.