Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Princeton Update

Courtesy of LISNews, here's an article from the Princeton Packet on the controversy over the recent Princeton Human Rights Film Festival:

According to some critics, two of the 15 films shown during the library's annual Human Rights Film Festival last weekend are "propaganda" and do not accurately reflect life in Cuba.

"I think it's outrageous to have a film festival at a public library that leaves out all the realities of Cuba, especially when you have thousands of witnesses to the human rights violations," said Maria C. Werlau, executive director of Cuba Archive, an organization that collects information about the country.

Ms. Werlau and Princeton Township resident Fausta Wertz raised issue with the documentaries "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" and "Salud! What Puts Cuba on the Map in the Quest for Global Health Care."

The article explains why Princeton Public Library decided to show these films:

Leslie Burger, library director, said the film festival committee had no intentions to glorify Cuba. "Salud!" and "The Power of Community" were chosen because of the issues they addressed, not where they were filmed.

"They felt it was unbalanced because there were two films that were holding Cuba up as a model, and that really wasn't it," Ms. Burger said. "It wasn't a Cuban film festival. It was a human rights festival. The conversations we were trying to have were about education and energy and health care and immigration and disaster relief."

The selection committee, headed by youth services librarian Pamela Groves, followed a list of criteria that included: whether a film educates and informs; treats complex issues in a skillful way; is unlikely to receive wide distribution; and has the potential to inspire, motivate and stimulate meaningful dialogue.

"What we were trying to do is focus on things that we think are the rights of human beings versus the human rights violations in the world," Ms. Burger said. Ms. Groves could not be reached for comment.

(FYI, Ms. Burger is the current President of ALA.)

Yes, "the rights of human beings versus the human rights violations in the world". You would be hard pressed to find a finer example of leftist gibberish. As a definition of human rights, it is so broad as to be meaningless.

Anyway, as I noted in my earlier post, this year's festival did include a film about people who were "persecuted" for expressing their views: Shut Up and Sing, the story of those heroic dissidents known as the Dixie Chicks.

Someone needs to write Rafiq Tagi and tell him just how lucky he is. Sure, he was sentenced to three years in prison just for writing an article critical of Islam, and one of Iran's most senior clerics wants him dead. But hey, at least he's never had to endure the horror of Rush Limbaugh saying mean things about him.

Back on topic, the main point of the critics, and I agree wholeheartedly, is not so much the films that were shown; it's the ones that weren't shown:

Ms. Wertz and Ms. Werlau said they respect the committee's right to show films of its choosing. However, they add, the committee should have included films to counter the positive light "Salud" and "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" cast on Cuba.

They suggested films such as "Before Night Falls," "Children of Paradise," "A Patriot's Path to Democracy" and "The Torture in Castro's Cuba."

"The thing about the two films is not that they're being shown. I have no objection to that," Ms. Wertz said. "The facts on Cuba are not the facts that were shown."


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