From Beethoven to N. Scott Momaday: ACT Film Festival announces full lineup

Twenty documentary films representing 16 countries from five continents will make their appearance during the Fourth Annual ACT Human Rights Film Festival at Colorado State University April 5-13.

ACT is the only film festival dedicated to human rights and social justice that is produced by a land-grant institution in the U.S.

The festival gets underway Friday, April 5, at 6 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Theatre with a special opening-night reception prior to the Colorado premiere of Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements. The film lovingly weaves together the stories of filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodksy’s deaf parents and her deaf son, who discovers a passion for Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” written as the composer was losing his own hearing.

Scene from the film Eldorado
Scene from 'Eldorado'

Taylor Brodksy and producer Tahria Sheather will be in attendance at the reception and will join ACT moderator Liz Parks on stage following the screening for a Q&A. The opening-night reception occurs in the lobby of the theatre and features light apps and a complimentary pint of “Screening Sessions” pale ale, crafted exclusively for ACT by Odell Brewing Co. A fully accessible screening of Moonlight Sonata will occur at The Lyric on Tuesday, April 9, at 6:30 p.m.

Other opening-weekend films

Opening weekend of the festival continues April 6 and 7 with nine films, including two Colorado premieres. Midnight Family won Sundance Film Festival’s 2019 cinematography award. The film is a gripping and unforgettable dive into the complicated and cutthroat world of emergency response work in Mexico City. Gaza is a must-see portrait of life in this misunderstood enclave by the sea that is inhabited by 2 million people whose daily lives are overshadowed by a decade-long blockade.

Person playing cello in 'Gaza'

Between April 8 and 11, one selected film from opening weekend will replay daily at 6:30 p.m. These encore screenings do not feature special guests or Q&A sessions, however three are paired with a short film that will also screen Saturday, April 13, during the festival’s first-ever short film block, presented by the Bohemian Foundation and highlighting the work of local nonprofits.

The festival concludes on April 12 and 13 and features 11 films, including eight Colorado premieres. From the refugee crisis in northern Africa to the notorious forced labor camp in Masanjia, China, films grapple with the harsh realities of fighting for a life filled with dignity and freedom while honoring the human spirit.

No film tells the complex story of the human spirit more elegantly than Words from a Bear, which closes out the festival at the Lory Student Center Theatre on Saturday, April 13. The film features the enigmatic life, words, and art of Pulitzer Prize-winning Native American writer N. Scott Momaday, who, along with daughter Jill Momaday, will join Ty Smith, director of CSU’s Native American Cultural Center, on stage for a post-screening conversation. The evening concludes with a reception outside the theatre in the Lory Student Center Kindness Lounge.

N. Scott Momaday
N. Scott Momaday

‘Rare and beautiful’

“It’s a rare and beautiful event we’ve created for northern Colorado,” says festival managing director Beth Seymour. “We have filmmakers from around the world converging in Fort Collins to screen some of the most relevant and acclaimed films produced in the last year.”

On April 6, festival goers will have the rare opportunity to hear visiting filmmakers discuss the nuances of making human rights documentaries during a panel discussion with Scott Diffrient, ACT director of programming and professor of film studies in CSU’s Department of Communication Studies. The free event, titled “Private Lives, Public Spaces: Intimacy and Community at Human Rights Film Festivals,” will feature filmmakers Irene Brodsky Taylor, Tahria Sheather (both of Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements), Matthew Shoychet (The Accountant of Auschwitz), Aaron Burns and Aaron Koehler (both of Western Collections). Guided by Diffrient’s thoughtful questioning, filmmakers will reflect on the ethical dilemmas that arise whenever individuals are asked to live out the most intimate details of their day-to-day existence in front of a movie camera. The panel begins at 2:30 p.m. at The Lyric.

The complete festival schedule is posted on the ACT website, as are film descriptions and trailers, except for those films that are so new trailers are not yet available. Purchase festival tickets in advance through the ACT website, Tickets may also be purchased day of show, pending availability. Door prices are higher.

Arid landscape
'Scenes From a Dry City'

All Festival and Weekend Passes are available for a limited time. Passes offer the most flexibility to experience the festival. In addition to all regular screenings, All Festival passholders will receive a commemorative ACT T-shirt, entrance to opening and closing night films and receptions, as well as all encore screenings. Weekend passes include opening or closing night film and receptions, plus all regular screenings for the designated dates.

ACT is produced by the Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University with generous support from CSU partners, including the College of Liberal Arts; the Departments of Anthroplogy, Economics, English, Philosophy, Sociology and History; the Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts Major; Women in Philanthropy; and Ram Events.

Off-campus partners include the City of Fort Collins Fort Fund; The Lyric; Eye Center of Northern Colorado; Bohemian Foundation; the Colorado Office of Film, TV, and Media; Odell Brewing; KUNC 91.5 FM; Townsquare Media; The Coloradoan; The Elizabeth Hotel; and the Colorado Water Center. Learn more at

ACT poster