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150 Years of Impact

Human Rights Film Festival Illuminates Stories of Freedom, Justice

Syracuse Symposium Continues "Stories" Theme with 16th annual SUHRFF

Sep 14, 2018 — Article by: News Staff


Director Rudy Valdez (center) will introduce and discuss his film "The Sentence" (2018) at SUHRFF.

The Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival (SUHRFF) returns for its 16th year as it once again brings to Central New York an outstanding lineup of critically acclaimed films addressing social justice and human rights in the United States and around the world.

The Sept. 27-29 festival is part of the 2018-19 Syracuse Symposium, whose theme is "Stories." SUHRFF is co-presented by the Syracuse University Humanities Center in the College of Arts and Sciences and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. An interdisciplinary event, SUHRFF embodies the spirit of One University—achieving even greater things at the University through the work of many disciplines.

“This year’s Syracuse Symposium theme of 'Stories' is a perfect match for our festival,” notes Roger Hallas, associate professor of English and co-director of the festival, “because effective storytelling is foundational to both human rights activism and filmmaking. The films we have selected for this year’s festival embrace a rich and creative range of narrative techniques for illuminating and engaging vital struggles for peace, justice and human rights.”



Roger Hallas

All screenings are free and open to the public. DHH accommodations will be provided. For more information, visit

SUHRFF opens on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, Newhouse 3, with a screening of “The Sentence” directed by Rudy Valdez. Premiering earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary, the film offers an achingly powerful story of the long-term effects of mandatory prison sentences as Valdez turns his camera to document his own family story. Valdez will introduce the film and participate in a Q&A.

“We’re thrilled to bring this compelling film and its director to open our festival,” says Tula Goenka, professor of television, radio and film in the Newhouse School and co-director of the festival. “While several recent documentaries, such as Ava DuVernay’s '13th,'” have mounted powerful political arguments for prison reform, none can match “The Sentence” in the intimacy with which it reveals the impact of draconian judicial policies on American families.”



Tula Goenka

The theme of stories further resonates in “On Her Shoulders,” which screens on Friday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, Newhouse 3. Alexandria Bombach’s award-winning film (Sundance, SXSW and Hotdocs) offers a searing exploration of the survivor’s burden to bear witness as Yazidi genocide survivor Nadia Murad travels the world to tell her traumatic story in numerous demanding public contexts to generate international response to her community’s urgent peril. The screening will be followed by discussion with Kelsea Carbajal and Margaret Mabie, members of the Syrian Accountability Project in the College of Law, which recently published a report on the Yazidi Genocide.

The festival continues on Saturday afternoon at Shemin Auditorium in the Shaffer Art Building with screenings of “Call Her Ganda,” about the murder of a Filipina trans woman by a U.S. marine; “I Dream in Another Language,” a poignant drama about the threatened loss of an indigenous language in Mexico; and “White Sun,” a sensitive fictional exploration of the legacies of Nepal’s brutal civil war on its communities.

The film festival is co-sponsored by the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, the School of Education; the Department of Languages, Literature and Linguistics; the Citizenship and Civic Engagement Program; the International Relations Program; the Latino-Latin American Studies Program; the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program; the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC); the Disability Cultural Center; the LGBT Resource Center; and the South Asia Center.

It is also supported by the Department of Art and Music Histories; the Department of History; the Department of Political Science; the Department of Religion; the Department of Sociology; the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies; the Asian/Asian American Studies Program; the LGBT Studies Program; the Middle Eastern Studies Program; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; and SASSE: Students Advocating Safe Sex and Empowerment.

Free public parking is available in the Lehman, University and Harrison lots on University Avenue after 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, parking is available in Q4 and other open parking lots.

All films are either open-captioned or subtitled in English. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) will be available at all screenings for the introductions and discussions. For other accommodations, contact Kristen Northrop ( or 315.443.7358) by Sept. 21.

Full information can be found on the festival website:

The festival schedule includes the following:

OPENING NIGHT: Thursday, Sept. 27
Opening reception
6 p.m., Newhouse 3 Lobby

“The Sentence”
Rudy Valdez
(USA, 2018, 85 min. Closed-captioned in English)
7 p.m., Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, Newhouse 3
Turning his camera on his own family, filmmaker Rudy Valdez constructs a personal and achingly powerful portrait of the long-term effects of mandatory prison sentencing. Introduction and Q&A with director Rudy Valdez.

Friday, Sept. 28
“On Her Shoulders”
Alexandria Bombach
(USA, 2018, 94 min., English, Kurdish and Arabic with English subtitles)
7 p.m., Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, Newhouse 3
A searing exploration of the survivor’s burden to bear witness as Yazidi genocide survivor Nadia Murad travels the world reliving her trauma to prompt international response to her community’s peril. Post-screening discussion with Kelsea Carbajal and Margaret Mabie (Syrian Accountability Project).

Saturday, Sept. 29
“Call Her Ganda”
P.J. Raval
(USA, 2018, 98 min., English and Tagalog with English Subtitles)
1 p.m., Shemin Auditorium, Shaffer Art Building
The brutal murder of a Filipina transwoman by a U.S. Marine illuminates how gendered violence becomes a geopolitical battle over postcolonial national sovereignty. Skype Q&A with director P.J. Raval.

“I Dream in Another Language”
Ernesto Contreras
(Mexico/Netherlands, 2017, 104 min., Spanish and Zikril with English subtitles)
4 p.m., Shemin Auditorium, Shaffer Art Building
In a remote Mexican community, a young linguist seeks to document an indigenous language before its last two speakers pass away, but discovers the trauma of lost love stands in his way.

“White Sun”
Deepak Rauniyar
(Nepal/USA/Qatar/Netherlands, 2016, 89 min., Nepali with English subtitles)
7 p.m., Shemin Auditorium, Shaffer Art Building
Finding the political within the everyday, "White Sun" uses one village’s complex tribulations to narrate Nepal’s devasting recent history of civil war.

Details are at

Contact Information

Rob Enslin