Global Voices Film Festival Looks to Unite Nations

Grad student Anna Feder is a curator with international reach

By Robin Berghaus


Above are scenes from Tapped, the opening documentary of the Global Voices Film Festival.

For over a decade, Anna Feder has brought independent films to ever-larger audiences.

Before enrolling in the College of Communication’s graduate film production program, Feder (COM’10) was helping to produce film festivals. Majoring in film analysis and technique at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she coordinated marketing, press relations, and grants for the UMass Multicultural Film Festival, which offers international films on campus for free. Then she built on volunteer experience at the Newport International Film Festival to become director of the Boston Underground Film Festival, which “showcases bizarre and insane little films, eager to spring them on an unwitting public,” as its Web site explains.

Now curator for the Global Voices Film Festival, sponsored by the United Nations of Greater Boston, Feder returns to her roots, promoting international documentaries that tell stories with social and political themes.

Feder is Emerson College program coordinator for visual media arts, where she oversees internships, coordinates the LA Film Festival, and helps students create press materials, apply to film festivals, and network.

The Global Voices Film Festival opens tonight in Cambridge, at the Harvard Film Archive.

BU Today: Describe the focus of the festival.
Feder:
Global Voices Film Festival screens international documentaries about peacekeeping, human rights, global health, economic development, women’s advocacy, and the environment, issues that tie into the mission of United Nations of Greater Boston.

What makes the festival unique is that it’s not just entertainment. It offers a chance for dialogue through panel discussions with filmmakers and experts from nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations, who talk about their work and help put the films in context.

Describe some highlights.
Tonight kicks off with Tapped, a documentary about the hazards of bottled water. It’s not a boring, talking-heads documentary; it takes a serious issue, and makes it entertaining.

Tomorrow’s screenings include Immokalee USA, about migrant tomato pickers in Florida, a region where the majority of our tomatoes come from and one of the poorest communities in the country. It’s a beautiful film in terms of the landscape and the care it takes with its subjects, bringing viewers into the heart of the situation. After the screening, director Georg Koszulinski will lead a discussion.

Closing night includes My Neighbor, My Killer, a film that explores tribunals in Rwanda held by survivors who tried their war criminals, then found ways to forgive them and help them reenter the community. Director Anne Aghion will be present for a discussion.

The festival ends on a positive note. Soldiers of Peace explores worldwide peace-building movements in areas of conflict, such as Palestine and Israel. The actor Michael Douglas, who is a United Nations Messenger for Peace, narrates the film. The cast includes Sir Bob Geldof, the rock star and activist, Richard Branson, the British businessman, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Prize winner and former general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, and Hans Blix, chair of the U.N.’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission. It’s entertaining and uplifting, showing how a handful of people in war-torn areas are making a difference.

Describe your role as curator.
For the first seven years, Global Voices had been a traveling festival, organized by the United Nations of San Francisco, offering films to other chapters. The United Nations of Greater Boston chose from those films and paid a fee to screen them. I encouraged the board to program in-house, so we would have greater access to filmmakers and expand the selection. Immokalee USA was shot in the United States, Tea on the Axis of Evil in Syria, Forgotten Woman in India, My Neighbor, My Killer in Rwanda, and Soldiers of Peace all around the world, from Ireland to the Middle East and Colombia.

As curator, what are the challenges and highlights?
The major challenge is finding time. We’re all volunteers, so we get pulled in different directions.

The best part has been watching these films with the board and brainstorming ideas to involve the community. We’re reaching out to more partner organizations, selling blocks of tickets at a discount. They can use the tickets as a fundraiser for their own organizations or pass the discount along to their members.

What are the most unusual films?
The shorts programs are always unique. We’re running two this year. One focuses on global health, specifically HIV/AIDS. The other is very fun and light and explores different cultures.

One of my favorite shorts is from Bulgaria, Tulibu Dibu Douchoo. The film was inspired by the performance of contestant Valentina Hasan on Bulgarian Music Idol 2. She doesn’t speak English well, so when she sang Mariah Carey’s song “Without You,” she improvised the lyrics. “To Live Without You” became “Tulibu Dibu Douchoo.” Hasan’s version is now the number-one popular Bulgarian song of all time, and the film includes YouTube clips of people from all over the world singing her version.

How would you like the festival to evolve?
When we have more resources, we want to include more cultural events, live music, and informational sessions.

I would love to host a fair trade event with vendors that sell fair trade products, such as Ten Thousand Villages, Taza Chocolate, and Equal Exchange.

How has your experience at Boston University helped prepare you for what you’re doing today?
For six weeks in Australia, I participated in the Sydney Entertainment Promotion and Film Studies Program. I expanded my knowledge of Australian and Asian cinema, developments in the Australian film industry, and strategies to market entertainment. I received a day pass to the state theater and tickets to film screenings, as well as a week off to travel with friends in Melbourne.

I’ve always attended and worked at festivals, but that was my first experience doing it on the other side of the world.

The Global Voices Film Festival begins tonight, Thursday, October 8, with an opening reception at 6 p.m., followed by a screening of Tapped at 7:30 p.m., at the Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge; it runs through Sunday, October 11. Film screening, panel discussion, and event times and locations vary; check Global Voices online for the schedule. Tickets range from $5 to $7 and may be purchased online or at participating box offices, the Harvard Film Archive, Harvard Kennedy School, and Brattle Theatre. For more information, call 617-482-4587.

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

This article first appeared in BU Today on October 8, 2009.

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