'Faces': Prejudice on a Personal Level
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Racism in the family: A Bulgarian husband wants to know the truth. Ivan Ivanov wants to know what his wife thought of the Roma people, his people, the Gypsies, before she met him.
She speaks softly.
"They don't like to work. They are lazy. They steal. Everything negative."
What about now, he wants to know -- now that she has gotten to know a Roma and is married to one, a man with degrees as both a doctor and a lawyer?
She speaks softly.
"My opinion is the same, because they have not done anything to change it."
Ivanov just looks at the table. His video camera records the silent hurt.
We know racism. We know discrimination. But in a new documentary, "Faces of Change," we see it happening everywhere -- pervasive and universal and with the same crushing effect on its targets, like Ivanov. The struggle to overcome shame -- as much as the racism -- pervades this film.
It is five stories rolled together in an arresting portrait of racism that was shot by five amateur filmmakers who are human rights activists in far corners of the globe. They have shot their own lives and struggles in vignettes that are raw and personal and oftentimes inspired. The stories are strung together, for the most part seamlessly, in a feature-length documentary that is Michele Stephenson's directorial debut.
"Faces of Change" has its world premiere at 2:15 p.m. today as part of the Silverdocs festival at AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring. In its use of amateur filmmakers telling their own stories, the film is unique among the 89 other festival films, says festival director Patricia Finneran.
In the film, we meet Elodia Blanco, an activist fighting the Environmental Protection Agency over the toxic dump beneath her New Orleans subdivision, where she and her African American neighbors are beset by strange ailments. Her daughter had to have breast tumors removed -- at age 12.
We meet Mohamed Ould Bourbosse, an underground activist dedicated to revealing that slavery still is practiced in his native Mauritania. He films an Arab Mauritanian admitting that his family has slaves. He films government officials denying that slavery exists.