Strong Lineup at the Fourth Annual Human Rights Film Festival

In the Shadow of the Sun
  • In the Shadow of the Sun

“What would I be if I weren’t strong?” asks one of the characters in director Jeremy Teicher’s Tall As the Baobab Tree. Strength is a quality that reverberates throughout the six films to be screened this weekend as part of the fourth-annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival at the Museum of Photographic Arts.

The festival runs from January 23 through January 27. Tickets are $8, with discounts available to students, seniors, military, and MoPA members. For more information and a complete list of films, visit the Museum of Photographic Arts.

Why not make Sunday a dinner-and-two-movies escape? Submitted for your approval, a superb late afternoon double-feature with enough time sandwiched between the films for you to grab a sandwich.

In the Shadow of the Sun trailer

In the Shadow of the Sun

There is a spot on God’s green earth, Ukerewe Island in Tanzania to be exact, where witch doctors continue to prescribe the severed limbs of albinos as good luck charms to patients looking for eternal prosperity. After a rash of 43 murders, two men with albinism — Vedastus, a teenager wanting desperately to make his way in the world and Josephat, a lifelong advocate against injustice and leader of the Ukerewe Albino Society — set about the countryside to seek out and warn as many of the 170,000 villagers born without “protective pigment” as possible of the immediate danger. Filmed over the course of six years, Harry Freeland’s sole-scorching “walk in my shoes” documentary paints a brutally uncompromising portrait that includes moments of unforgettable triumph (Josephat’s strength and fervor as he tries to convince the locals that albinism is not the work of the devil) along with several images my brain will never degauss, try as I might.

The 3 p.m. screening will be followed by a Q&A with Shantha Rau Barriga, Director, Disability Rights Program, Human Rights Watch.

The moment of understanding from Tall As the Baobob Tree.

The moment of understanding from Tall As the Baobob Tree.

Tall as the Baobab Tree

Someone has to pay the hospital bill after a fall from the titular topiary sidelines Coumba’s (Dior Ka) older brother. Their father not only deems her time better spent doing her brother’s work than in a classroom, but also (in order to raise quick cash) arranges to marry off Coumba’s 11-year-old sister. Not wanting the villagers to view education as a roadblock to enlightenment, Coumba refuses to follow her teacher’s advice that she turn the matter (and her parents) over to the authorities before venturing into the big city to find work. The world Teicher presents is as foreign and remote to many of us as any galaxy far, far away, but the fight to save someone you love is universal. Coumba’s tale of heartbreak, delicately portrayed in plainspoken, unsentimental tones by a cast of nonprofessionals, packs an emotional wallop.

Tall As the Baobab Tree trailer

The 7 p.m. screening will be followed by a Q&A with Dustin Sharp, Assistant Professor at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at USD, and Anita Raj, Director of UCSD's Center of Gender Equality and Health.

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