Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vermont International Film Festival

Today I attended the Vermont International Film Festival at the Palace 9 in South Burlington. I watched two great documentaries and missed the third because I was listening to the directors speak about the second film. Finding one thing to blog about after all that I was exposed to today is difficult so I tried to stick to one thing for each film.

Afghan Star is about Afghanistan's version of American Idol where singers compete to be #1. The film follows 4 of the contestants as they compete. Some of the contestants in the Afghan version risk their lives to compete, particularly the women. What was really cool about the film was that the last three contestants in the competition were from three distinct ethnic groups (Pashtun, Tajik and Hazara). In decades past, these groups had engaged in civil war, but on the show they competed peacefully. The show not only seems to unite the citizens but has created a productive boom in their economy boosting sales in televisions, batteries and CDs.

RFK in the Land of Apartheid: A Ripple of Hope is about Robert F. Kennedy's five day trip to South Africa in 1966. We had the pleasure of having a question and answer session after the film was over by the directors Tami Gold and Larry Shore. The Junior Senator from New York visited white colleges, black colleges, the shanties in Soweto and banned activists and leaders like Chief Albert Luthuli. It was an inspiring film. I learned a lot from this film, the most interesting things I learned were about Apartheid in South Africa.

I always knew in the Apartheid system, every person had a racial designation (black, white, coloured, or Indian/Asian). Depending on a person's distinction, they were granted different rights and had to abide by different rules. It determined everything from where they could live, shop, sit and which bus you could take. Madness! What I didn't know was that children were designated by the racial distinction of their father. The film shows an interview with a woman that was considered "coloured" because of her Malaysian background when her Indian husband died she was forced to move from her home because she was coloured. She could live there when her husband was alive because of his Indian status. After he died, she had to move but the children could stay. She had to go to court to have herself reclassified.

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